Here we go, playing scientist.
Does anyone think that as tourism ramps up in our area that COVID-19 cases won't increase?
Does anyone think that if a few tourists who do come don't wear masks that we're all going to die?
Ridgway Town Councilor Tessa Cheek thinks exactly that.
During the town's May 13 council meeting, according to a report in yesterday's Ouray County Plaindealer, Cheek said…"there are zero ventilators in this county, there is no hospital in this county, so please wear a mask so that you don't kill us all."
Kill. Us. All.
First, there hasn't been a hospital in Ouray County since the Miner's Hospital in Ouray closed in 1964. I don't recall reading stories over the past six decades about rampant death and despair because the Miner's Hospital is now the Ouray County Museum.
Second, people don't contract the virus and just drop dead within an hour. So, the fact that there is no hospital or ventilators in Ouray County doesn't mean someone can't withstand the 40-minute drive to get to Montrose Memorial Hospital for treatment.
And third, masks are only as good as the mask itself and how a person wears it. Try to mandate proper mask usage, Councilor.
She went on to say that people from "Houston, and from Scottsdale, and from L.A., and from New York" will be spreading the virus "all over every surface in this town."
The envelope, please. And the award goes to…
Without any scientific facts behind her ominous warnings, Councilor Cheek has determined that we're all doomed to die if unmasked visitors come breathe on and touch everything in sight.
Which brings me to the revision the Center for Disease Control just made this week to its website. The subhead the CDC posted reads:
"The virus does not spread easily in other ways."
It is referring to ways other than "person-to-person spread," according to cdc.gov, under "How it spreads."
The first subhead reads: "The virus spreads easily between people," more easily than influenza, but not as efficiently as the measles.
As far as the virus being on "every surface in town," the CDC is not sold on that verdict. "It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it," the site says, "and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
Note the operative words put forth by the CDC, which is less certain than Councilor Cheek: "may be possible."
I'll tell you what is spreading, and you can find a similar substance to it in any pasture in Ouray County.
Nice job, Colorado Tourism Office.
Or, should we call it the Tourism Prevention Department?
As reported, well, just about everywhere, the CTO told visitors last week who are wanting to come to the state not to bother.
“Want to visit Colorado during Coronavirus? ‘Please don’t,’ the state says,” read the headline on cpr.org. Cathy Ritter, tourism office director, launched a campaign called “Waiting to CO!”
Yearning to come to Colorado? The CTO’s message, put out last week, encouraged wannabe visitors to dream the dream, but not live the dream, by posting photos of themselves climbing the sides of their houses, or kayaking on their front porches. It even suggested posting photos of would-be tourists holding marshmallows up to a pretend fire on their TV screens.
You can’t make this stuff up, which is why you are not in charge of tourism in Colorado and she is.
Businesses in this state are caving, and Ritter suggested that tourists take what amounts to “air guitar” vacations to Colorado.
Surely, an idea like this wouldn’t get around too fast. Right?
“Out-of-state travelers asked to stay away from Colorado until the time is right, the tourism office says,” reported KMBC News 9…in Kansas City!
“Tourism officials ask travelers to stay away from Colorado,” blared the Associated Press article’s headline.
In the article, Ritter, perhaps practicing her distancing techniques from her TPD headquarters, said, “I think there certainly is a wish among practitioners of tourism that there will be travelers this summer.”
Translation: Open up the damn state so we don’t lose our livelihoods!
She went on to say, “Those may be in-state travelers. There may be other conditions that happen that make it impossible to invite travelers back into our state.”
Translation: Ritter thinks she’s the gatekeeper.
As Colorado lawmakers recently took up the task to slash $3 billion from the state’s budget due to COVID-19-related effects, part of the proposal was to defund tourism promotion.
So, instead of fighting for the businesses and people of Colorado who rely on tourism, and presenting the pros and cons of continued tourism, Ritter took to the press and just said, to quote John Candy, “Sorry, folks, park’s closed.”
I don’t know about the rest of the state, but social media in Ouray lit up like the Fourth of July, with tourists wondering how long they have to stay away, if they should cancel their reservations and even posting sorrowful notes about how they just switched their vacation plans to go elsewhere instead, all because Ritter wanted a little down time for us all.
Fast-forward a few days. The Joint Budget Committee reversed course and finalized a plan to give the CTO $10 million. And Ritter pivoted just as quickly, expressing her sorrow in a contrite press release over the way her message was “sensationalized.”
She then spelled out her four-part phase-in plan for tourism, and said she is “deeply committed to supporting tourism partners and driving the restoration of the Colorado tourism economy at the earliest opportunity possible.”
Just as soon at that $10 million check clears the bank account.
Alan Todd is a 35-year newspaper veteran who lives in Ouray County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.