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Listen to the public health department

Thank you to San Juan Basin Public Health for its work keeping our community safe over the past 11 months.

To be honest, I never knew much about our local public health department. I knew it performed restaurant inspections, offered programs for people in need, and that they collected mosquitos that they tested for West Nile Virus. (True story, I used to have an office in their building and next door to me was the mosquito trap storage!) I did not realize the other roles they play in our community, especially in times like now.

I do not pretend to like any of the restrictions public health agencies have enacted for communities around the world. They are not easy from a personal standpoint, nor are they easy for business. Business owners crave certainty, and conditions right now are the most uncertain I have seen in my 53 trips around the sun.

While I do not like the restrictions, I have tried to understand them by researching and reading articles and studies from experts in health care and in infectious disease. I have listened to local doctors who own small practices, to CEO’s of hospitals, to spokespeoples for national health care organizations. I have learned so much from our local public health employees.

San Juan Basin Public Health does not like the restrictions either, they impact their own lives just like they do mine and yours. Even so, the restrictions, capacity limits and closures have been necessary over the past 11 months to slow down the spread. As painful as the restrictions have been, they have worked to keep our numbers under control.

As we move into the last months of the pandemic, I am seeing a great effort to try to balance the needs of public health and of economic health. The 5-Star program that BID and others have implemented is a prime example of this. The recent changes the state made to the dial that determines how open we can be are another example.

There are simple things we can all do to support both public health and economic health, and our own mental well-being. Wear your mask when you are out in public. Do not gather with people outside your household just yet. Get the vaccine when it is your turn. Listen to what health experts are telling us to do.

Support local businesses by making a conscious choice to shop local when you can. Order take-out, or dine inside at 5-Star program restaurants. Buy a gift card to a retail shop. Support local artists by shopping at galleries downtown, or just by dropping a dollar in a tip jar the next time you see someone singing their heart out. Get outside and take a walk. Connect with others using Zoom, Facetime or a phone call.

La Plata and Archuleta counties have seen 36 people die from this virus. Many of the 3,400 people who have had COVID-19 in our area have lingering and debilitating symptoms. Most are fine and recover without complications, but not all do.

Continue to do your part to slow the spread, which helps keep our businesses afloat.

Tim Walsworth is executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. Contact him at timw@downtowndurango.org.