Together, we are beating COVID-19 virus

| April 16, 2020 1:00 AM

I thank all of you who have taken the guidance of Governor Brad Little and of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seriously by practicing social distancing, staying home and wearing a protective face covering when interacting with the public.

I’m also very grateful to all the health care workers and essential service providers that have risked their well-being so that all of us can get the care and resources that we need to live our lives in safety. Many essential service workers are taking this risk out of necessity, for minimal pay, so they can continue to pay the rent and put food on the table. I’m also very grateful to the restaurants, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations and individuals who have contributed money, time, and effort to feed hundreds of people in need.

As I write this article, Governor Little is preparing to deliver a press release extending the Stay Home Order through April 30. Over the next two weeks, non-essential businesses will be encouraged to develop an operations plan that will allow workers and customers to practice social distancing at the business. On May 1, the Stay Home Order will likely be relaxed for those businesses that can implement such a plan. This will give relief to retail, professional service and manufacturing related businesses. Bars and restaurants, however, will remain closed for table service until further notice. Governor Little is also tightening up Idaho’s borders, requiring self-quarantine for anyone who is traveling from outside of Idaho. This will reduce the spread of COVID from other communities who are attracted to areas with more amenities and lower rates of infection.

Idaho as a whole, and Bonner County specifically, currently has the healthcare capacity to meet the demand. This is a result of our actions to stay home and social distance. Bonner County now has the testing capacity to meet the demand with improved 3-4 hour tests. Monday was the first day Bonner General had no tests pending. Because tests are more abundant now, the threshold for testing is lower. That means more people are being tested and the likelihood of identifying infection is much higher. This is very encouraging and is an important step in minimizing the potential for community spread.

As we look ahead and wonder how and when life can return to normal, there are no clear answers for the future. What we do know is that we are successful in flattening the curve, slowing the spread and saving our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. For that we should be proud. Lives are being saved by our collective actions. However, we are not out of the woods. This threat will remain until a vaccine is developed or humans develop herd immunity. Most experts agree the potential for a vaccine is at least a year out. There is no guarantee that one can be created or that persons who have developed the antibodies will maintain immunity over time. Experts also disagree about the ability of humans to develop herd immunity to the novel coronovirus, which is when enough people have become immune to the virus that it doesn’t spread readily throughout the population.

Our defense against COVID-19 will continue to be practicing social distancing protocols and mask wearing to slow the spread of the disease and reduce pressure on our healthcare system. This will fundamentally change the way we interact, do business and socialize. Ultimately, we will return to work and our lives but we will do so in a world with coronavirus. We will adapt to these changes and we will thrive.

Please join me to discuss this issue and more at the Mayor’s Roundtable this Thursday, 4-5 p.m., on Mayor Shelby Rognstad’s Facebook live feed. Questions can and comments are welcome. You can post questions ahead of time on my facebook page: Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

Shelby Rognstad is the mayor of Sandpoint. He can be reached at mayor@sandpointidaho.gov.