Will Frohlich

We cannot say we were not warned…warned that as temperatures dropped in the northern hemisphere COVID-19 cases would increase; especially straining rural areas. Warned that small social gatherings outside of our households would spread the disease, and that not wearing a mask or adhering to social distancing would increase case counts. Warned that keeping a normal schedule when displaying symptoms would fuel community spread. That schools would need to transition and piece together an approach if the entire community didn’t take the proper mitigation steps requested seriously. That once we hit critical levels, our healthcare facilities would have to start considering crisis standard of care. That a global pandemic isn’t concerned about political affiliation or age. That historically the second wave of a pandemic is more dangerous than the first, 100% of the time. That it’s not just here locally, it’s globally. We are now in a CRITICAL situation defined by the number of cases in our valley reaching a tipping point.

We continue and will continue to shatter case counts, hospitalizations and deaths if we do not act immediately.

It is not my intention to come off as harsh, but to instead bring a sense of urgency that is long overdue.

None of this is easy, many answers do not exist to the questions we have. Most of us are struggling more than we ever could have imagined. We do not know what the future holds. What we do know, is that if we do not get control of this virus locally, regionally, and nationally, we are in it for the long haul.

Is there an end game? Absolutely. We will eventually get a vaccine to widely distribute. Until then, time is of the essence, and the responsibility comes down to each one of us.

In an ideal scenario, local governments would be handed a plan and guided on how to implement it. It would be enforced if not followed. Instead, we have been told it is up to us, we are on our own. Small local governments such as ours here in Teton Valley Idaho, work extremely hard to operate efficiently without a global pandemic, let alone creating the play book for how mitigate one. We are not experts in infectious disease, instead we need to listen to those who are.

We have deliberated for hours on end, made difficult gut-wrenching decisions. We have set aside our differences and have worked together in the best interest of our community and will continue to do so. At the same time, we know the virus moves faster than we do. Burnout is real, continuing to take a pragmatic approach is a necessity.

We are now at the tipping point. What that exactly looks like, no one knows. We will continue to fight and implement additional mitigation measures that we think are necessary. Knowing that our local law enforcement and health district have chosen to remain in a reactive state at this time. We have run out of options and time to convince those in our community that this is in fact, a very serious situation. An extreme sense of urgency now exists.

To win this fight, we must as individuals and community members, make the right personal decisions. Decisions that you may not agree with, but those that are proven by our accredited medical experts. I see many say, “but our current number of deaths locally are low” or “many who get COVID are able to recover with mild symptoms”. We do not know what the long-term effects are, just as any pandemic before this one. More importantly, how dare anyone think that they have the right to downplay this situation, or tell someone that losing a loved one, a community member, is just part of the deal.

We do know that with the recent situation, folks are showing more serious symptoms. Keep in mind, we have not hit flu season yet, which historically alone strains our health care systems. We have hit the ceiling here locally. The words “we can’t afford another shut down” should not be part of the conversation if everyone is doing their part to slow the spread. If we do not put our differences aside and truly step up to the plate, the economy will be the least of our worries.

No one is perfect, it doesn’t take perfection to get this under control, it takes responsibility and individual choice. It is up to us to choose our path forward and to define our history. We are all exhausted, burned out, frustrated. We want to be social again, attend church, gatherings, celebrate occasions, have kids in school, playdates, go to live music, enjoy one another, and get back a sense of normalcy that we once took for granted.

I am asking you to be part of the solution, let’s beat this. There is an end game, getting there depends on us. I am proud of our community and know that we can come together, bridge gaps, put disagreements aside, and put this behind us.

I continue to be humbled at how hard our local governments, city staff, volunteers and community members work to protect this community with a scientific, informed, and proactive approach. Let’s support each other and encourage one another to make the right decisions.

I am not going to outline what we need to do, by now we all know. I am asking you to do it to the best of your ability. If you cannot find an answer, find someone who can, use the resources provided. Let’s buckle down. Let’s not hope for the best, but be the best, our community depends on it.

Continue to lead with empathy and assume positive intent. We are now at a crossroad, the direction we take depends on us. We can either choose to slow this down or shut down. There is no in between.