High Points: Three years ago COVID-19 changed the world | AspenTimes.com

High Points: Three years ago COVID-19 changed the world

Paul E. Anna
High Points
Several people skinned up Aspen Mountain March 15, 2020, after Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order to close all of Colorado's ski areas for one week.
File photo

It’s hard to believe, but this coming Tuesday, it will be three years since life changed for each and every one of us.

On March 14, 2020, The Aspen Times reported that the Aspen Skiing Co “will close all ski operations at its four ski areas immediately ‘by order of the governor of the state of Colorado.’” It was unthinkable. The first positive test of a patient with COVID-19 in the state had been confirmed just nine days before. And now the ski season was over? How could that be?

I remember the uncertainty of that moment. The questions. How long will the lifts be closed? What will happen to the employees? Will tourists still come? As it turned out, these were comparatively trivial matters, as the next two years would reveal.

It seems in some ways like it was only yesterday, and yet I think that many of us have pushed those lonely days to the furthest reaches of our memories, trying to pretend that it was just a thing, that it was blip in our lives. So for some of us, it almost seems as if it was only a distant dream.

But for those who got sick, for those who lost loved ones, it was much more than a blip. It was a life-altering experience. That weekend we entered a new dimension in our collective American history. We simply did not know what to expect next from the shutdown.

A Princess Cruise ship in San Francisco isolated passengers on board after an outbreak. Schools began to shutter. People began to wear masks and “social distance” from each other. Sports events were canceled. Zoom meetings became a thing. Going to the grocery store took an act of courage.

And people were dying. Each day, we would see the tabulations in the media of how many people had tested positive in the days and weeks before and how many casualties there were. It was an unprecedented experience. We had no  idea how long COVID might be around. There was talk that a potential vaccine could take 24 to 36 months before it was ready.  

Then just one year later, on March 7, 2021, I found myself masked up behind the wheel of my car in a parking lot at the Aspen Music Festival tent, waiting to get an injection from a local health worker of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It seemed like a miracle.

I wrote at the time: “Major kudos must go out to Pitkin County Health and all of those involved in putting together the nearly flawless system for administering the vaccinations this past weekend. From the initial alert urging us to sign up online, to the email and text confirmation and scheduling system, to the organized simplicity of getting the actual shot — this was a well-orchestrated affair at the Music Tent. A thousand bravos. It was without question the most efficient medical procedure I have ever been a part of.”

To me, that was the High Point of the pandemic. The fact that this community responded so well and kept so many people alive is testament to our overall response.

According to Pitkin County Public Health, as of June 2022, Pitkin County “experienced a total of seven deaths associated with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.” They should never be forgotten.  

Now that we are three years on from those uncertain days, we should all take a moment to reflect and to be thankful that things were not worse. That the vaccines worked, and that this hideous outbreak is, seemingly, behind us. When you get on the lifts this weekend, perhaps it is a good time to keep that in mind.

It took nearly three years, but we made it through.