Dear community members,

Many of you are aware that COVID-19 cases are on the rise here in Gunnison County. Hospitalizations are increasing across the state as we continue to manage the pandemic while heading into flu season. Cases across the state have risen so much that the likelihood of a person in Colorado encountering someone infected with COVID-19 is greater now than ever before.

This doesn’t change how we all feel right now. Like thousands of other communities around the nation, we are tired. Our hard-won successes combating COVID-19 in Gunnison County make this new wave of infections all the more disheartening. Managing the pandemic has required a great deal of sacrifice: we have isolated, distanced, and shuttered our schools. We have lost family and friends, our sense of security, jobs, and beloved businesses. In one way or another, this disease has caused suffering for everyone in our community.

Given all the challenges we’ve faced and ongoing hardship, it’s easy to lose sight of our successes. At one point this past spring, we had the third highest infection rate of any county in the US. The leadership of our public health experts and widespread cooperation across the county helped us achieve the least restrictive status on the state dial and saved our summer tourism season. This fall semester, the Gunnison Watershed School District has been successful at staying open and keeping our kids in school. Although Western recently shifted to online instruction, campus was open for eight full weeks. This is quite a feat considering how many universities around the nation closed within days of students returning to campus.

Rural counties like ours have long celebrated our independence and self-reliance: we’re used to taking care of ourselves. But alongside this tradition of self-reliance, we must also remember our long history of coming together as a community to make sacrifices and work together in times of need. This is one of those times. We may be tired of COVID-19, but COVID-19 isn’t tired of us. It will feel much more difficult this time around, but we need to work together to repeat our successes managing this pandemic. Wearing facial coverings, sanitizing, social distancing, and avoiding exposure risks by limiting travel and gatherings with friends and family can help us save lives, businesses, and our winter tourism season. Limiting our gatherings to immediate household members this holiday season could mean saving parents, siblings, or our children’s grandparents.

This is not a mandate, but a call to action to do everything we can right now to curb the spread of the virus. Most cases in our county have arisen from travel or relaxing our guard in small social gatherings. Our individual decisions in the coming weeks can save lives.

We’ve flattened the curve before, and we can do it again because we are a community that cares for one another and works together to find solutions that benefit us all. We also have new weapons in our arsenal, such as HEPA air filters and a vaccine on the horizon. What we must do now will not last forever. Let’s do our best to support each other as we continue to protect our neighbors, businesses, and the very essence of our community.

Board of County Commissioners
Jonathan Houck
Roland Mason
Liz Smith

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