Going Green

It’s Earth Day, so I’m going to encourage us all to not just think but also act green, but I have a different sort of green I’m aiming for as well. If Gunnison County can completely vaccinate 10,000 folks with a county address, we will move to “green” on our Coronameter.

We at Pat’s are doing our part in domino fashion: Kara got her second covid vaccine Tuesday; new guy Brayden (who started a month ago and will come work for us full-time as soon as he gets his degree in studio art from Western, still a liberal arts institution for now) gets his today; James gets his tomorrow. Vann, with a first name that starts with V and a last name that starts with T, is used to being at the end of the line; good thing, since his name came up near the end of the county database. He got his first shot last night after 6.

Gilly and Jeff got their shots sometime back; I am one week post-vaccination. Everyone present and accounted for, and we are all part of the process to get Gunnison open again.

This week’s virtual town hall on Monday and the Tuesday morning business Zoom clarified the plan for me. “Green” on the Coronameter means everything open with only one qualifier. It means businesses can welcome all customers without limitations. Bars and restaurants can offer full seating, and can stay open their regular hours. Events can take place without restriction.

That means Cattlemen’s Days can happen in July with as many spectators as the grandstands can handle. The car show in August. Fourth of July in Crested Butte. The San Juan Solstice in Lake City got cancelled two years ago due to flooding concerns and last year due to covid. All of you who want to run 50 miles up and down mountains at altitude — and you know you do — should sign up now.

The Solstice is a major fund-raiser for emergency services in tiny Hinsdale County (and what puts the “fun” in fund-raiser more than a 50-mile run?), which points out that many local events also serve as fund-raisers, fund-raisers that didn’t happen last year. Even if they aren’t raising money for non-profits, they are fund raisers in the sense that funds are coming into our local economy when tourists bring their dollars to the valley.

Some of the funds find their way to Pat’s, both in the form of the event swag we provide and in our retail sales. So getting the clarification from county officials about what green means was not only helpful but exciting.

There are a couple of caveats to our no-caveat status, however. First, we aren’t there yet. As noted, Vann was at the end of the county’s database, and we still have to find 700 more locals willing to get vaccinated.

The county has some strategies, including offering a walk-in clinic up in Crested Butte on some unspecified Saturday. They are hoping this will draw in some 16- to 18-year-olds who perhaps didn’t want to take the time away from school to come down to Gunnison on a Wednesday or Thursday. Maybe some adults didn’t want to spend two hours on a work day getting a vaccine, either, so perhaps this will help them as well.

Hopefully — although I’m not particularly hopeful on this point — some vaccine-resistant people will start to realize that this is the fastest path back to all of us doing what we want when we want and will sign up to be that magic 700th person that lets Gunnison County open as almost-normal by Memorial Day.

A large caveat is that while participant limitations, social distancing, extra sanitizing and such steps no longer apply in “green,” we are still supposed to be wearing masks until the public health order expires. Right now that’s scheduled for July 1 — Independence Day a little early.

The other unknown lurking out there is what happens if our county visitors arrive in large numbers without vaccines of their own. These visitors don’t even have to come from far away: it turns out Gunnison County is way ahead of the vaccine curve, not only nationally but statewide.

In fact, as a state, Colorado is not impressing in the vaccine realm. As of last Monday, Gunnison had at least one shot in 63 percent of local arms; the United States as a whole had them in 50 percent; and Colorado lagged at 40 percent, with only 25 percent of state residents fully vaccinated — half that of Gunnison’s rate.

I did wonder about using that as a tourism driver locally: come to Gunnison and get your shot. I gather the governor has mandated that any state resident can get a shot anywhere in the state, so why not try to draw people here for the noble purpose of vaccination with the ulterior motive of selling them at least some food and gas?

But then I realized our vaccination center, running on a lot of volunteers, might not want to put forth the massive effort and expenditure to become a tourism driver. I know our public health director, because she said so herself, would rest easier if our vaccinated population were at 90 percent rather than 70, and if that included children who so far haven’t been approved to use the available vaccinations, but at some point there’s going to come a moment when it’s not worth the rate of return to keep our vaccination clinics open.

For Team Pat’s, those last steps are now in place to do our part for Green, and as I briefed the staff Tuesday on what that could mean, it made me feel positively giddy. Bearing in mind there are still some barriers, we could be back to mostly “normal” in a little over a month.

So if you live here and haven’t signed up for vaccinations and don’t want to do it for yourself, consider doing it for your neighbors. If you live someplace else in Colorado with an abysmal vaccination rate, have we got a deal for you, starting with walk-in clinics next week. If you live elsewhere in the country, or world, and are vaccinated, we would love to roll out Gunnison’s green carpet for you. We’ll have events and everything for you!

It may not be easy being green, but it is good for us. Happy Earth Day.

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