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Gunnison Valley Opens to Tourists: To Mask or Not To Mask?

Update: As of 6/8/2020 anyone indoors in a public space or in a situation where 6′ of social distance can not be maintained is required to wear a mask in Gunnison County.

Colorado Summer Vacation 2020: There are some in the Gunnison Valley who feel that were it not for government intervention in the form of safer-at-home orders and other safety directives, businesses would be enjoying a more normal business season. There is nothing I read suggesting this is true.

We think we know that the Covid-19 is dangerous to older people and not so dangerous to those who are younger, and over the long term that could be proven true. And so someone could argue that a healthy 40-year-old should have no Covid fear, and go about his or her business as normal. But most people are still plenty frightened and it is much more than government restrictions that are keeping people from going about normally.

Slate Magazine published the results of a survey that was responded to by more than 6,000 readers. 69% of Slate readers fall between 25-54 years of age and the reader is relatively affluent. These are people who are not in a high-risk group for serious Covid complications, and have the money to travel to Crested Butte and the Gunnison Area. These are people who should not be particularly fearful of covid, but they are.

91% would not go to a movie theater that was opened to capacity. 70% will not take a commercial flight. 73% do not feel comfortable in a restaurant, though that number drops to 46% dining outdoors. 67% will not go to an outside concert. 58% will not rent a vacation home. Even in a relatively controlled environment, like hosting a dinner or attending a dinner at someone else’s home, people are fearful with 64% and 59% replying they would not.

In the entire Slate survey, only going to the beach or a national park‚ was seen as positive for most. 58% replied yes, to 28% no. The balance of the responses were don’t know.

That’s good for us and our wide-open spaces.

Still, all of us as we get back to business have a responsibility, to our businesses and neighbors who have been hurt so badly, to make visitors to the valley feel as safe as we can. It doesn’t matter if we feel like there’s nothing to be frightened about. People are frightened. It seems to me entirely possible to frighten visitors away.

Pity poor Joni Reynolds. She stands accused of issuing extraordinarily draconian health orders, although she never did. And now she stands accused of not issuing orders tough enough, that being customers in stores may go unmasked. There are plenty of people in the valley who think this the height of temerity.

As has been explained other places, my mask is helping protect you from me. I don’t like wearing a mask at all. Who does? It’s a simple courtesy, from me to you. Likewise, I would not issue a loud belch in a checkout line. It’s legal, but I just wouldn’t do it. It’s simple courtesies that help lubricate the gears of our society.

In any event, if those Slate figures are even half-right, we’re in for a tough summer not because of government orders but because of the fear across our country. We should all do our best to make our visitors feel as welcome and as safe as we know how.

-John Norton, Executive Director, Tourism and Prosperity Partnership

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