- We’re starting a marathon, but need to run at a sprinter’s pace.
- We don’t know how long the race will be, nor how it will end, nor when.
- Mixing metaphors, we’re flying blind, and we’re doing so together.
This is the fourth version of my Council Update I’ve started in the last three weeks. Each time, what I was writing was rendered moot by events related to THE event facing the entire globe: COVID-19.
Feeling the need to do something, though, my goal for the next many weeks (or months, or…) is to get out a series of shorter newsletters, each featuring content that will complement the factual COVID-19 information disseminated by the Town of Jackson and our numerous partners on our just-launched official community website:jhcovid.com
As we as a community, nation, and planet work our way through this Through-the-Looking-Glass period, I am confident of just one thing: the better our collective communication, and the more we can understand and help one another, the better we’ll do. All of us. Both during and after this experience.
As always, thank you for your interest and support. Please let me know if there are ways the Town of Jackson and/or I can help you during these tumultuous times.
All my best,
COVID-19 and This E-Newsletter
I’m focusing this and future e-newsletters on COVID-19 for the most basic of reasons: Keeping constituents and other interested folks informed is a fundamental part of my job as an elected official.
Right now, no one really knows what’s going on. In such an environment, only two things are clear: Ignorance breeds fear; and we’re all in this together.
Ignorance breeds fear
The uncertainty about how COVID-19 will affect our lives is producing a collective anxiety-cum-fear unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. Which, as Franklin Roosevelt pointed out, only makes things worse.
In such an environment, the best way to minimize ignorance and its attendant fear is by encouraging and facilitating the exchange of information. That way, we’ll collectively piece together the mosaic of understanding that will allow us to get through this difficult time with as much grace and little suffering as possible.
We’re all in this together
The more our community can work as one, the better our collective outcome will be. As an elected official, I see my role as encouraging and facilitating such efforts; this newsletter is one piece of that work.
In this and subsequent newsletters, I’ll share my observations of how COVID-19 is affecting Jackson Hole, especially as seen through the lens of local government. Please know, however, that I’m acutely aware of my own ignorance. What we’re all going through right now is so vertiginous that, as I see it, this e-newsletter and everything else I do must be grounded in extreme humility.
This edition of my newsletter focuses on three subjects:
- Teton County’s First COVID-19 Case
- Public Health v. Socio-economic Health
- Clearinghouse of Ideas
One additional thought
As I note above, when it comes to COVID-19, we’re all flying blind.
This coming Sunday, March 22, marks the 68th anniversary of the day my father, a Naval Aviator, was blinded while flying a bombing run over North Korea. Thanks to a combination of exceptional skill, courage, and luck, Dad was able to land his plane safely. Following his recovery, he led a long and fulfilling life, one hallmarked by success, happiness, and great love. (http://thebrownshoes.org/story/ken-schechter)
My father proved that flying blind can end well. Seven decades later, we have the opportunity to do the same.
Teton County’s First COVID-19 Case
As I was sitting down to write this, I received an e-mail from a friend. In it, she told me her husband is Teton County’s first COVID-19 case.
And just like that, COVID-19 became deeply personal for me.
Doubly so, because as soon as my friend gets her test results back, she will likely become Teton County’s second case. Or, depending on timing, our third or fourth or…
Perversely, talking to my friend left me feeling a lot better about the entire COVID-19 mess than I did when I couldn’t put a face to “Case #1.” Here are some points she shared that I found of interest:
- My friends are in their 60s and are otherwise fit and in good health. Their symptoms are real (e.g., fever, sore throat, cough, and aches), but not debilitating.
- While it is not entirely clear how the husband contracted the disease, county health officials do NOT consider the case to be a result of community transmission. This is great news, for it suggests that, at least so far, our collective efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve are working.
- The medical staff handling the case were first-rate: knowledgeable, courteous, efficient, caring. This was no surprise, for Jackson Hole is blessed by an extraordinary group of healthcare professionals and first responders. Still, it was good to know my friend was treated well.
- The testing process was quick and easy, and results came back sooner than anticipated.
- If you are tested, the self-quarantine protocol you’ll follow depends on the results.
- If you’re exposed but don’t have the disease, you self-quarantine for 14 days.
- If you contract the disease, you self-quarantine for 7 days after the onset of symptoms, or 3 days after you are both symptom-free and fever-free, whichever comes later.
- If you do contract the disease, once you recover you’re considered immune.
When I asked my friend what she and her husband – Teton County’s case #1 – wanted to share with other folks, she observed that we cannot take things for granted: COVID-19 can strike anyone. It’s something Jackson Hole – and everywhere else in our intimately interconnected world — should take extremely seriously.
Public Health v. Socio-economic Health
For me, COVID-19 has made obvious a reality I’d not realized before: Without being aware of it, a community is always balancing public health with socio-economic health.
Properly, COVID-19 has completely tipped the scales to emphasize public health. As time passes, though, there will be increasing pressure to pay attention to socio-economic health. This is because the phrase “the weakest and most vulnerable among us” applies not only to those who are physically susceptible to COVID-19, but to those whose lives and livelihoods are being upended by the disease.
The extreme measures we’re currently taking are both completely appropriate and completely consistent with our culture – America is not known for taking half-measures. By definition, though, extremes are short-lived, and at some point it will no longer work for us – whether as individuals or a community; whether socially, psychologically, or economically – to continue the necessary-but-extreme protocols we’re just now beginning to embrace.
Hopefully, before that breaking point is reached the extraordinary minds working on COVID-19 will develop a less-draconian approach to slowing its spread. Better still, they will develop a successful treatment for the disease.
If their progress is not so rapid, though, then our community and society will face the unbelievably wrenching choice of balancing flattening-the-curve and keeping the rest of society from freezing up.
I don’t know how to strike that balance, and neither does anyone else. But as both an individual and elected official, anticipating that Sophie’s Choice moment is keeping me up at night.
Clearinghouse of Ideas
My father survived flying blind because one of his fellow aviators also acted heroically, talking Dad down to a safe landing on a dirt airstrip barely into South Korean territory.
For me, the metaphor is obvious: If we as a community are to touch down safely after all the physical, social, and economic havoc COVID-19 will wreak, we too need to help each other in a heroic fashion. A different type of heroism, to be sure, but heroism nonetheless, of a kind appropriate for today’s circumstances.
Key to that will be piecing together our collective wisdom. To help that process, I plan to reach out to friends, colleagues, and community leaders for their thoughts on the problems we’re facing, the opportunities we’re missing, and steps we can take to help all of us move forward.
If you have thoughts you’d like to share with me, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether or not you do, please take all precaution to protect yourself from COVID-19 – as you do, you’re also protecting our entire community.