Guest opinion: Better communication from health officials needed
Cooler nights and changing leaves indicate that ski season is fast approaching. Skiing and tourism are the lifeblood of our community; COVID-19 will make this season vastly different. I was concerned with some events allowed to go forward this summer and voiced my concern in the following email sent Aug. 8 to Chris Crowley, Summit County public health emergency preparedness coordinator:
“Hi Mr. Crowley,
“My name is Hannah Hunsaker and I was born and raised in Park City. I have been away at school for the past five years, but I was lucky enough to spend my quarantine time back home. I spent four years in Massachusetts for undergraduate education and began my master of public health last fall at the University of Vermont. While this has been an extremely difficult few months for the world, it has reinforced my desire to pursue public health and has provided major learning opportunities.
“First of all, I would like to commend the entire Summit County Health Department on all of your work during this pandemic. My family and I have appreciated the extra precautions taken by our county and the data is encouraging.
“That being said, I was disappointed to see the number of cars parked at Ecker Hill Middle School today for the Ski Town Shootout lacrosse tournament. I know that the annual soccer and softball tournaments have been cancelled, so I am curious as to why this tournament was allowed to take place. City and county officials have stayed focused on trying to save our ski season, the heart of our town and economy, and this tournament seems contrary to that goal.
“I love this town and have been impressed with how businesses and individuals have been able to adapt to our new normal. The loss of the ski season would be catastrophic for our community; allowing large gatherings like sporting events seems to make that an even more real possibility.
“I felt strongly that I needed to voice my concern. Again, thank you to you and your entire team for all of your efforts.”
I received a prompt reply from Mr. Crowley indicating that he forwarded my email to Summit County Health Director Richard Bullough. As of Aug. 21, I had not heard back from Mr. Bullough, so I sent a follow up email:
“I am reaching out to you as a follow up to the note I wrote two weeks ago to Mr. Crowley voicing my concern over the continued county sanction of sports tournaments (see below). I received a prompt response and it was indicated that my note was passed on to you. As I have not received a response from you, I am reaching out again. I know there was another lacrosse tournament last weekend with large crowds, and with school starting, I am even more concerned that this could lead to increased case numbers that will negatively impact my community and family. As I mentioned in my previous email, saving our ski season is of the utmost importance for the economic health of our community and increasing case numbers further jeopardizes the season.
“I would again like to thank you and your entire team for all of your work during these unprecedented times.”
It is now Sept. 13, and I have heard nothing from the Health Department. I know this has been an extremely busy and stressful few months, but our community deserves answers. If the community wants to save our ski season, there needs to be open communication with the health officials we have trusted to lead the COVID-19 response.
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In a guest editorial, Summit County Manager Tom Fisher and Health Director Richard Bullough say the county is quickly using every coronavirus vaccine it receives. But for now, the number of people eligible for inoculation is greater than the number of doses the county is receiving.