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The time to act is now

The rise in new COVID-19 cases has caused our community to be moved into a new level on the state’s dial that determines how “open” we can be. We entered this new Level Red: Severe Risk on Friday.

It is important to note that this is not a shutdown. Our community, and many others in Colorado, were headed that way, but on Tuesday this week, the state created a new level to avoid that blunt tool to break the spread of transmission. However, if our community’s statistics do not improve dramatically, a shutdown could be in our future.

I do not have to tell you how bad a second shutdown would be for our businesses and families. In order to avoid this action, and to be able to move back up the dial and have fewer restrictions, our community must pull together and act collectively now.

We all know the basics of wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from others and washing hands frequently. This should be second nature. If it is not second nature for you, it is time to get with the program. One of the main reasons Durango School District 9-R closed is that the virus is running through its staff, making it impossible to teach our kids in-school. Law enforcement personnel are experiencing the same thing, as are local hospitals. Help protect them, so they can continue to protect and serve us.

San Juan Basin Public Health reports that there are two main causes of the rise in new cases. One is in the workplace. When interacting with co-workers, masks and social distancing must be maintained. You are not in a pod with your co-workers, like our kids are when they are at school. You do not know what your co-worker does or does not do, or what exposure they might have had recently, so it is important to wear masks around co-workers, stay 6 feet apart, clean high-touch areas frequently and continue to work with all the protocols to keep businesses open.

The other concern is people attending parties. I know we are tired of this, and that we miss our friends and families. We just want a little normalcy in our lives every now and then. However, many people attended Halloween parties, and now look what is occurring. I ask you, is it worth it to jeopardize the health of our economy for one evening of fun? The new Level Red we are in as of Friday prohibits private gatherings of more than one household. Please exercise personal responsibility over the upcoming holiday weekend.

As of Nov. 17, La Plata County has seen 447 new cases over the past 14 days. Our goal is to reduce this two-week total to 197 so that we can move into a level with fewer restrictions. It will take sustained, collective action to accomplish this. We can do it, but we need everyone to stop arguing, listen to our health care experts and work together.

There is some very good news about the vaccine that will ultimately bring an end to this. It is expected that it will be available broadly to the public by mid-summer. It is time to focus our collective action starting now through summer to help our community survive. Your community needs you!

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