Kiki Tidwell

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March 31, 2020

Dear Blaine County Commissioners,

Although I commend you for instituting the shelter-in-place restrictions in Blaine County, our problem is not going to be solved after this period has run its 24 day time limit.  A large portion of our population still will not have gotten the disease and will remain susceptible, up to a 1/3rd of carriers of the disease show no symptoms, and people from other areas will come into our Valley bringing strains of the disease with them.   The Director of the CDC just said as much; expect waves of infection through the fall. I have been reading modeling reports from financial analysts like Lazard, and they model various scenarios where shelter-in-place orders will have to exist through November.  We will be living with this pandemic for at least the next year unless we do something differently here.  

We have to accept now that we will not be magically going back to a tourist and recreation economy this summer.  I doubt that the Sun Valley Resort will even reopen this summer. Instead, we have to look to the people we already have here to start rebuilding an economy.  We will have a significant portion of our local population receiving State unemployment checks and federal stimulus funds. Businesses can now apply for a SBA forgiveable loan to cover 8 weeks of their payroll expense, rent, and utilities.  Workers may receive 8 weeks of pay without actually going to work. Families will be receiving direct $1200 plus $500 per child checks, mortgage relief, and student debt payment suspension. We have people employed through internet-connected jobs where they can continue working remotely.  We have people who are retirees with financial nest eggs. We have a second-, or third-, or fourth- homeowner segment of our population which is significantly affluent. Closing our borders to second homeowners like other resort places in Maine and Nantucket are doing is not the answer; these part-time residents are a real economic engine to our Valley.  As well, they have a right to be able to reside at their homes. We want to be like Telluride instead, which is testing their whole population with blood tests.

But we will not be having the Summer Symphony, art fairs, concerts, the Writer’s Conference, 4th of July events, and Wagon Days unless we take dramatic action in the next couple of weeks.   I believe that the number one priority for you as County Commissioners is to secure enough test kits to test everyone in the Valley and anyone coming into our Valley.   Find out who has had the virus through blood pinprick tests and who is an active carrier through the new 15 minute portable tests. Quarantine people who are active carriers, either at home or a designated site.  Do not let anyone come into the Valley without a test. 

In the immediate short term, there is a segment of our population who still doesn’t get that interacting with other people is dangerous.  The thing about this virus that makes it so dangerous is that it has an unusually high rate of transmission. Require right now that anyone interacting with the public, whether they be supermarket checkers or post office employees, to wear gloves and face masks.  

This is not like anything any of us have ever lived through.  No one would have told you this past fall that the mountain would shut down in the middle of March within hours of notice.  But this is the time to novel action that we’ve never had to take before. It is only through being extremely proactive to secure testing capacity and securing our base population’s health protection first and foremost that we can start to recover any semblance of an economy here. 

Sincerely,

Kiki Tidwell

Blaine County resident