By Terri Lynn Oldham House
Can you recall what life was like before COVID-19?
Those days when most students attended brick-and-mortar schools in town? When buses were delivering those students to school instead of delivering food to students at home to feed them and ensure food security?
Our lives have been turned upside down by this global pandemic.
To say that this past week has been a roller coaster is an understatement. The world seems surreal.
At work, we find ourselves debunking countless rumors. Emails pour in endlessly. The onslaught of news releases has been nonstop.
The unknown scared people.
The unknown scares us.
On March 14, when Gov. Jared Polis closed down Wolf Creek Ski Area right at the start of the biggest week of spring break, our tourist-based economy came crashing down.
Two days later, a public health order closed bars, restaurants, theaters and casinos statewide.
We witnessed an amazing resilience in our local business owners as they were suddenly forced to change their business models in order to survive. Restaurants found themselves offering takeout and curbside orders.
The closure order was soon expanded to hair and nail salons, spas and tattoo businesses.
Spring break can make or break a business in this town. Without those two weeks of income, many businesses could not get through the off-season and stay operational until summer.
In an attempt to help, SUN staff pulled together a list of business information to run on PagosaSUN.com and on our Facebook page for free to help those loyal businesses who have supported our efforts to provide quality journalism by advertising with us over the years.
Those same business owners found themselves counting the days remaining that they could afford to make payroll and pay rent. Many were forced to reduce staff, including management at The Springs Resort and Spa, who had the daunting task of laying off 100 people.
We know it was painful for both the business owners and their valued employees. The state’s unemployment system crashed with the massive increase of claims.
The governor steps to the podium on what seems like a daily basis and the list of closures grows. Advertisers have canceled ads at an alarming rate.
We found The SUN right there with the growing list of businesses who were left wondering how to pay employees, how to stay operational in the days to come. We also pondered how to pay for the $21,000 shipment of newsprint.
This newspaper that you are reading right now has changed dramatically. It was produced by a smaller staff, properly distancing themselves 6 feet apart. Our already low-paid staffers have had their hours cut drastically.
There are no photos of events. There were no events. There are no new sports photos. There were no sports.
We were touched, however, by the parents who came to our call for photos of their children being schooled at home. Those picture pages can be found in The PREVIEW section. We also had locals share their snow photos. George Hunyadi is a local we can always depend on to shoot scenic and wildlife photos from the Chromo area of Archuleta County to share with SUN readers. He came through like always. These are examples of citizen reporting at its finest.
A local stay-at-home advisory issued on Monday created added concern, panic and confusion. Other communities in Colorado and in the state of New Mexico were issuing actual stay-at-home orders.
While we’re not certain about the future and what the COVID-19 outbreak means to all of us, we remain steadfast in our commitment to serving our community.
We can do this together.
By Terri Lynn Oldham House