It’s late April: a time when we’re supposed to be spring cleaning and preparing our community for the millions of visitors who make the journey up to our beloved peninsula.
Instead, we’re wondering when we will open the Door, and what it will look like when we do. It’s not an easy answer.
There are so many variables to consider. But first and foremost, we have to protect the most vulnerable. When we can do that, we then have to put short-term interests aside for what is best for our community for the long haul.
Politicians are parsing data and reading it through their own lenses. Interpreting the information through one lens or another. Nobody wants people to get sick. Nobody wants the economy to fail. We have to believe that.
But to do so now, we need answers to critical questions. Some must come from our elected leaders at the state and federal levels. And others – even some we may believe are the responsibility of those leaders – now must come from within.
1. Testing: Whether it’s the guidelines from Gov. Tony Evers or the plan from Rep. Mike Gallagher, it’s clear we need to continue to ramp up testing. No, a negative test won’t keep you clean, but a positive test result will help us know how widespread the virus is in our community and state, and it will help infected individuals get care or isolate themselves to slow the spread.
2. Contact tracing: Our legislative leaders must make sure our health departments have the staff across the state and in our county not only to contact and trace all cases, but also to address questions from the public quickly to stop the spread of misinformation and give the public confidence in our health-care infrastructure and business community.
3. Transparency: Communication from the state and county levels has to be more clear than it has been thus far. When the governor makes an order, it should be clearly communicated to affected businesses what that order means to them, to the extent possible. County government must communicate regularly, quickly and clearly with municipalities as events unfold and practices change.
4. Preparing for the inevitable: The ugly days of March and April are nearing an end. If we thought it was hard to tell people to stay away during everyone’s least favorite time of year on the peninsula, it’s going to be impossible as the temperatures rise, flowers bloom and the sun shines. Residents and business owners need to return to being the welcoming hosts that visitors have regarded like neighbors for generations. It does us no good to tarnish our reputation with anything less. People will come whether the governor opens the doors or not, and we need to make sure we communicate the best ways to do so safely.
5. Changing expectations: Even with our doors wide open, we shouldn’t expect business to return to normal. Our dining rooms will look different; our festivals will be smaller or canceled; our public celebrations will take different formats.
6. Messaging: Inevitably, we’ll see more cases in Door County as visitors arrive from communities with large numbers of cases. When we do, we need a coordinated effort to get correct information to our residents, our business community and the statewide press.
7. Caring for our most vulnerable: Every viable path forward calls for those most vulnerable – those older than 60 or with underlying conditions, and those in our nursing homes and assisted-living facilities – to maintain strict social distancing. They cannot be an afterthought. This is a significant portion of our workforce, our civic leaders, our volunteers and most importantly, our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, and grandparents. A life in isolation is no life at all. Our communities, our leaders and our legislators must turn every stone to find ways to safely provide opportunities for them to thrive.
Our community has always found a way through. We have always helped one another when someone is ill. We have found a way to keep our water clean, our land preserved, our traditions cherished and our community employed. We have always helped and supported one another through the tough times.
We will once again work together and get through.