View from Spain
Yesterday, after six months of studying in Spain, I unexpectedly returned home. In the span of a week my plans — and the stability of an entire country — were upended by COVID-19. Given Europe may be a harbinger of the situation developing in the U.S., there are several lessons from my surreal experience I’d share with my fellow Americans and Wyomingites.
In Spain the situation deteriorated overnight from business and class as usual, with an added dash of handwashing, to a bona fide national emergency. I spent my last several days there holed up in a Madrid hotel room eating out of cans, hoping to get on one of few flights out of the country while grocery stores, public transport and hospitals showed signs of strain from the pressure of over 15,000 cases and a country under near-total lockdown. No one saw that coming.
Listen to the experts. Prepare accordingly, and share resources instead of hoarding. Be proactive about practicing social distancing. Local, state and federal policies in the U.S. have been uncoordinated and delayed, and measures like staying home and avoiding large gatherings have to happen before they seem necessary in order to be most effective. In Spain, similar to California, New York and other states, orders to stay home carry the weight of law, punishable by fine or arrest. While we hold our freedom of movement dear, take any “recommendations” seriously: Lives depend on your choices. We need to think collectively, not individually, in order to flatten the curve and save more lives.
If all this leads to an Armageddon-style free-for-all, fighting over toilet paper and shooting dirty looks at anyone who coughs, stop for a minute.
Right now we must extend every help and kindness to each other we can — to family, friends, neighbors, strangers. Even in the grip of this fear and uncertainty the people of Spain are taking time to express gratitude and hope: Every night they come out on their balconies or to their windows and clap for the health care and food workers, a powerful gesture I was proud to take part in. Let’s follow their lead. We need to take this pandemic seriously, but without losing our heads. Or hearts. We can get through this as a community.
Resilience nets happiness
As the bears come out of hibernation and take over the stock market, our lifts stop spinning, Moab becomes a distant dream, and our world reorganizes, there’s no place I’d rather be right now than East Jackson with my kids and, thanks to my brother-in-law, 42 rolls of toilet paper. I hope these crazy times are treating you like they are treating me, which is with an unprecedented time to slow down and stop doing and reconnect with the people, things and actions that matter most. Last night as I was sandwiched between my kids on the couch doing back scratches and watching “Top Gun,” I reveled not in fear but in gratitude.
Last fall I was interviewed by Sorayah Ziem, a seventh grader at the Mountain Academy, for a project for her humanities class. They were investigating the question: “What does it mean to be human?” They had read the book “The Giver,” which taught them, according to her, that “to be human means to be able to feel all emotions, experience the freedom of choice and its consequences, and live life to its fullest.” Inspired by a documentary called “7 Billion Others,” her class conducted interviews of 120 people the same 32 questions, and their project is analyzing the answers to discover what it means to be human, according to people who live in the Tetons.
In response to two of her 32 questions (“What did you learn from your parents?” and “What do you want to teach your children?”) I had the same, simple answer: Resilience. The ability to pivot. The “capacity to withstand shock without permanent deformation or rupture.”
Wild, resilient, and peaceful are just a few of the characteristics I believe embody this community and will lead us through this crisis and into a better future. The concept of stewardship — responsibly caring for the things we value as a path to realizing our dreams — is key here. Taking proper care of our children, healthy choices for our bodies, and using our natural resources responsibly are the obvious examples, but there’s so much more we can offer. To share your ideas on how you and your loved ones are pivoting during the current crisis and well beyond, I invite you to visit and engage with the new community-driven Facebook Group “Teton Strong.” The idea is to facilitate a community conversation and share resources to nourish each other along our quest for healthy, fulfilling, sustainable lives. In the meantime, stay strong, stay wild, stay peaceful.
It’s up to us
Our country is in a tailspin of inaction from the top leadership. Thanks to our local leadership Jackson is trying to do its best to protect us without much support from the federal government. Kudos for the actions our local government has taken to stem the spread. Each citizen needs to act correctly to help slow down the impact. We are under attack from the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
We have a reported dozens of billionaires who call Jackson home. Can’t we have a group effort to keep us safe? We must do it ourselves and not wait for some outside help.
Time is of the essence. With the national demand for these medical items we will need to be tireless in working to acquire these supplies. We need to stock our hospital with all the necessary items. First, masks to keep our medical staff safe so they are able to help our sick. Second, acquire test kits so we can map the spread and isolate those infected. Third, ventilators, and finally, more space to isolate the sick away from others. Local schools or other buildings can be repurposed.
If we wait for the national government we will be in trouble. Can’t we act as a community to overcome the lack of action from the national level? We have local can drives for the poor, we have hundreds of local nonprofits all working for their cause. If there are those locals who have financial means and can help the rest of us please consider stepping up to help Jackson survive.
Is there an existing nonprofit organization that could take the lead? Locals are already hurting from lost wages, and how many businesses we will lose. How many residents will lose their homes? How many workers will be forced to move due to inability to pay rent? What impact will this have on our community; it can’t be good. I believe it’s up to us, and I hope we can rise to the challenge.
There’s also climate emergency
Climate change, like the COVID-19 pandemic, threatens to cause widespread damage to our economy, communities, and ultimately our health. It is reassuring to see Republicans and Democrats quickly come together to pass sweeping legislation during this health crisis. This is exactly the kind of collaboration we need to combat climate change. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that waiting to address a crisis can have catastrophic effects.
Please, while we have this time off, learn about the leading legislation in Congress at EnergyInnovationAct.org. Let Rep. Michael Simpson know you want solutions by calling his office at 202-225-5531 or go to cclusa.org/write or cclusa.org/tweet. Sign up for monthly reminders to call Congress at CCLCalls.org.
God bless the King
I was heartened to see so many locals skinning/hiking/sledding on Snow King last weekend. It truly is a great outdoor resource for the community. We need this outlet now more than ever.
We owe the King a lot. Maybe it’s time to conclude the years-long planning process and grant them permission to proceed with developments that will allow them to stay in business. We may not agree with everything Snow King wants to do, but in the big picture don’t we really want them to have a viable business so that we, the public, can continue to enjoy the Town Hill?
Jackson (on the King since 1959)
Enhanced screening anyone?
I returned last week from a monthlong trip in Kenya and briefly in Tanzania. My return flights were scheduled through Amsterdam, arriving in Portland, Oregon. Government orders required Delta to change my return destination to Los Angeles, one of 11 “enhanced screening” entry airports into the U.S.
Prior to landing in LAX, we were given a “CDC screening form” to fill out. It asked for identification information and three additional questions:
1. What countries did you visit?
2. Do you have any symptoms of illness?
3. Have you been in contact with anyone who is ill or has symptoms?
Passengers were told to deplane in groups of five. At the top of the jetway were five “health care screeners” in full hazmat suits, (protective equipment that could help front-line medical providers), clipboard in hand. They took the form, then asked the same three questions on the form. They handled my passport with gloves on, never changing them as multiple people went through the line, exposing all passengers to further contamination.
They did not check anyone’s temperature.
Friends who returned from international travel the same day through Atlanta, Honolulu and Miami experienced the same “enhanced screening.” No one had their temperature taken.
Conversely, Tanzania, a very poor country, had an extremely efficient screening process: You stood on a designated square on the floor, looked up, and an infrared camera took your photo and temperature in five seconds. You then walked on to immigration. No one touched your passport as they looked at it. No hazmat suits were worn.
And we wonder why U.S. airports have been linked to sources of contracting and spreading of the virus.
It would seem that taking temperatures for re-entry is critical to identifying ill travelers and to containing the spread of the virus. And would you admit to feeling sick if it meant being quarantined in a large city away from home? “Enhanced screening” is a farce, creating an environment ripe for spreading rather than containing the virus, and wasting critical resources.
It appears that some people have quarantined their minds from sound science and medical expertise.