Now it’s time for leadership from Gov. Steve Bullock. He has announced that the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers will be lifted on June 1. But once we are opened up, there is no going back to another shutdown, nor can we allow anything to prevent our schools from opening up this next fall. Hence the dilemma.
Bullock has followed all the guidelines produced by the Trump administration faithfully, but when it’s his decision, he’s been rather timid. Statistics indicate the state of Montana should be fully open without restrictions or very close to it, as we are a healthy state that really does not have a coronavirus problem. But many of our businesses, particularly in the western portion of the state, rely on tourism to keep their businesses afloat. However, it seems inevitable if we allow tourists to pour into our state, we will have more cases of infection. There are only two choices: to let the tourists in and resolve to take care of the resulting cases as we would the flu, without shutting down our economy; or just don’t let the tourists in and keep a virtual fence around us so we can remain safe.
The one decision the governor should not even contemplate for a second is to open up to tourists thinking he can shut down our economy and particularly our schools again if infections occur. Education and socialization for our children and grandchildren (and sanity of their parents) is the most critical issue for the near future, and nothing should preclude our schools reopening this fall.
Personally, I believe the men and women of our state can weather more infections, particularly with the promising treatment methods being developed. I trust our citizens to make appropriate decisions for themselves — whether they are healthy enough to go out or whether they need to sequester themselves to protect from infection. Finally, I know that our younger people have a negligible chance of dying, so they should be free to make their own decisions regarding their lives without governmental interference.
As our state continues opening up, he needs to prepare us for the possibility of infections and to say we are going to fight our way through them without shutting down our economy or our schools. Alternatively, he can say we aren’t going to allow tourists this year because the risks are too great and then try to help our tourist industry as best he can. To equivocate between these two is the timid approach used by political figures to avoid the tough decisions. And that’s not the type of leadership we need.
Mark Agather lives in Kalispell.
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