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End Times?

By Mike Rosso

Here we are, heading into the fifth month of the COVID-19 pandemic and our efforts to “flatten the curve” have been met with only some success.

Back in April, I mused that the pandemic could become an opportunity to hit the reset button—this crisis might be used for the betterment of society. Well, that didn’t quite pan out. It seems we are creating even further divisions. There is an obvious tension in the air when I choose to venture out of my bubble seeking essential goods. Added to that is a huge influx of anxious tourists into our remote county, looking to leave the pandemic behind, whether they be from the Front Range, the East Coast, California or Texas. The forest is taking a beating. Campers and litter, ATVs and campfires are out in full force.

Those tasked with our collective well being are also bearing the brunt of people’s anxieties. A recent article in the Colorado Sun describes the hostilities currently being endured by those whose job it is to keep us safe.

The head of Gunnison County’s public health department had to resort to a police escort just to go home. She and her family have been threatened by those who disagree with decisions made to protect the public’s health.

Others have met resistance by elected officials who have suddenly become experts on pandemics, an example of which can be found on page 16 in which the interim Rio Grande County public health director resigned, citing a lack of support by the county commissioners. His predecessor was fired by the board earlier this year. Saguache County is currently without a public health director.

A photo of the Alamosa health department director was posted online with crude and threatening comments, causing the agency to temporarily shut its doors.

Huerfano County’s health department director has had her car vandalized twice since the pandemic began. A group calling themselves “Colorado Counties for Freedom” has been working overtime to diminish her authority.

In Westcliffe, as we reported last month, the Custer County public health director resigned. Right here in Chaffee County, our public heath director has been a target of smears and attacks on social media, just for doing her job of working to protect county citizens.

Dr. Mark Johnson, who leads Jefferson County public health said his agency has received a number of threats and police have increased their patrols around the health department building there.

According to the Sun article, The Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials counts at least six resignations and one firing in Colorado since the pandemic began.

These are just a few examples of the abuse these public health officials have had to endure these past four months, and that’s just in Colorado. Things are just as bad or worse nationwide. Even the top infectious disease official in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, reports his immediate family has faced “serious threats” over his work on the coronavirus and that he has been assigned security.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, their prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, cracked down early in the coronavirus pandemic and now that country has basically eliminated the threat of COVID-19. Life there is returning back to normal, thanks to an adherent society, its isolation from the rest of the world and the forward thinking of its young and dynamic female leader.

The anger over the closures enacted during this pandemic are understandable. Small businesses are hurting, and we here at this magazine are experiencing firsthand the downsides of that. Even our local newspaper made the tough decision to now publish only twice a week, mostly due to a drop in advertising from the pandemic.

But blaming the folks whose job it is to keep us safe (most of whom are women), is an act of pure selfishness and FOX television personalities such as Laura Ingraham are just pouring gasoline on the fire to keep up their ratings. I’m going to side with the scientists and professionals over the pundits on this one.

The question of schools and whether they should reopen as scheduled is also currently front and center and we have two articles contained within from two different perspectives, that of a soon-to-be senior at Salida High School and the dean of Western’s School of Environment & Sustainability, who is our guest columnist.

We also have an interview with longtime WSU professor Dr. Duane Vandenbusche who has just been named the Colorado State Historian.

When the virus first hit back in March, we made a decision to not spend too muck ink on that topic. We felt there was enough information about it to be found outside of these pages and that readers might want a break from the topic. Now that all of us are still dealing with it in our daily lives, the topic is hard to ignore. In fact it should not be ignored, not until we take some cues from Ms. Ardern and start acting like grown-ups in the face of this debacle.