Spring has arrived in La Plata County, and it has brought with it much-needed snow along with the much-anticipated longer days. It is, as always, a time of renewal, and this year is proving exceptionally so as we slowly emerge from the long year that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on our communities.
While we are still deep in recovery-and-response mode, there is a lot of good news to report.
Perhaps most encouraging – and celebration-worthy – is the growing availability of COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine rollout has come in fits and starts nationwide and even in our state, but I am so pleased to say that La Plata and Archuleta counties have been leading the state in getting shots into arms. This inspiring achievement is by no accident. It is the result of hard work, led by San Juan Basin Public Health in coordination with local pharmacies and hospitals, Axis Health Systems, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, town of Ignacio, the volunteer team at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and others. These groups have all done very heavy lifting to help protect our community. La Plata County’s role has been robust as we offered support from our IT department, fairgrounds, and Risk and Emergency Management staff. Thousands of people have received vaccinations.
SJBPH’s leadership during this pandemic is just one more example of how effective that organization - which La Plata County contracts with to provide public health services for our county – has been throughout this pandemic. By deploying disease prevention, investigation and control measures as well as timely and relevant information about the constantly changing public health order landscape, SJBPH has risen to this unprecedented challenge and served us well.
The Board of County Commissioners is deeply appreciative of the role SJBPH has played in our community during the pandemic.
All of this good news comes with a dose of caution, though. While we are moving in the right direction out of the pandemic, we are not yet on the other side of danger. Nationwide, in Colorado and in our community we are seeing COVID-19 cases rising again. Hospitalizations are increasing, and variants are a growing concern. Now is not the time to let our guard down. Avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and sanitizing hands and surfaces are just as important now as they has been since March of last year.
It is tempting to let up, given the hardships that the pandemic has brought about. The social, economic and emotional impacts have been difficult for so many. Our local businesses have faced unforeseen and unbearable challenges that have forced too many doors to close permanently. Our abilities to gather with friends and family, to attend school and worship services, or even to go to work have been curtailed with great consequence. The effects of the pandemic extend far beyond the virus itself and the recovery will take time, resources and resilience.
We are fortunate that the American Recovery Plan will help with that. We understand that La Plata County will be receiving more than $10 million from that relief package, and while we are still learning about the details, the County Commission will be prioritizing investing in the La Plata County community to get us further down the road to recovery.
I commend the citizens of La Plata County for your resilience, strength and fortitude and look forward to seeing you in person soon.
Marsha Porter-Norton is chairwoman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach her at (970) 382-6219.