After our City Council meeting on Sept. 8, a comment from a fellow council member made me reflect where we are almost six months after I started a similar letter in March during the height of our COVID-19 initial pandemic response in Minnesota.
Earlier in the meeting, we discussed the application of a special event permit in the city that prompted discussion on the safety of allowing such an event — specifically due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns and subsequent impacts on the city and attendees. Despite numerous concerns raised, the permit was approved after a majority vote, with my vote being the only one in dissent.
The comment that prompted my thinking mentioned something along the lines of “If you are worried about large events, then don’t go.” I then remembered that some still do not understand — or refuse to acknowledge — the depth of the health crisis we continue to endure.
For our essential workers in service industries, health care, education, and public safety, the luxury to avoid large gatherings is not afforded to them and their families. We must remember how connected we are — especially in our small community. From the gas pump to the drive thru to the store checkout — even if you take precautions and avoid high risk events, those who do attend such events go forth into our communities.
This is one of the reasons why we have failed to reduce the spread of the virus. An example of such a phenomenon is from a recent southern Minnesota wedding that did not follow precautions and infections have spread to multiple counties. Another recent wedding in Maine tragically had people who were infected and subsequently died who did not even attend the wedding. This virus does not discriminate, and we are all at risk.
Numerous examples continue to remind us of the seriousness of this pandemic and how it can continue to spread and affect our lives. Individual responsibility to follow precautions is certainly paramount, but add alcohol and other social pressure combined with a yearning for normalcy and connection, inhibitions are abandoned. Despite precautions and guidelines, the additional planning and expense needed to adequately implement these requirements is diverting resources from the community organization that is intended to benefit from such events.
I serve in varied roles including as a university faculty member, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, city council member, mother and spouse. Over the last few months I have been involved in different aspects of the COVID-19 response in these respective roles. It has been heartbreaking to comprehend the tsunami of trauma that continues to wash over all families and communities who are still processing the grief of a familiar way of living we may never know again. That grief is compounded by the impact this has on our fellow citizens who have been infected and those who have died from this virus.
We are all being called upon to continue to adapt and change our lives more than ever before. There will continue to be sacrifices that will be made by individuals, families, and other local organizations to do what is necessary for the greater good.
We have a responsibility to each other, and I thank my neighbors and all else who follow precautions. As a city council, we need to continue to heed the advice of experts and leaders in our own community and stand firm when difficult decisions need to be made that are in the best interest of everyone. Even in an election year.