Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Let’s use caution in rolling back to ‘normal’

| April 26, 2020 1:00 AM

It was with great anticipation, optimism and perhaps some nervousness and fear that we embraced Gov. Steve Bullock’s announcement on Wednesday that Montana will begin a three-phase approach to reopening the state’s businesses and amenities as the COVID-19 crisis appears to be winding down here.

The statewide stay-at-home order ends today and starting Monday many businesses will reopen, albeit in a limited capacity. Physical distancing protocols will be with us for some time to come, but the door is now open to start taking baby steps back into our old routines. And every one of those tiny steps brings us closer to restoring a badly damaged economy.

While Phase One of the governor’s roll-out gives some specifics about what kinds of businesses can open and which ones will remained closed until future phases, there’s a lot of gray area. The nitty-gritty of how social distancing actually will work in restaurants, bars, churches and other gathering spots is now being determined by each and every entity. Other places of assembly, such as gyms, movie theaters, concert halls and bowling alleys, must remain closed for the time-being.

Schools across the Flathead Valley are wrestling with the big decision of whether to allow students to return to their classrooms on May 7 as the state plan allows. The superintendents of some of the bigger school districts are recommending their districts continue with remote learning for the roughly six weeks that remain of the school year. We understand the hardship for families that’s been created by the remote learning arrangement, but we believe it’s a smart call for these education leaders to err on the side of caution.

So here we are, anxious, but cautious about how to get back to “normal.” As Gov. Bullock cautioned in the message accompanying his three-phase plan, “once we begin to reopen, we want to be able to stay open.

“Our personal responsibility to protect those around us — particularly those most vulnerable — remains just as important as any time during this pandemic,” the governor stated.

He commended Montanans for going to “incredible lengths” over the past five weeks to adhere to directives that have resulted in Montana having one of the lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the nation. Bullock aptly points out that we’ve all made these sacrifices not only for our families and communities but also for the first responders, health-care workers and employees of essential services who are quite literally putting themselves in harm’s way every day they go to work.

Let’s continue to be cautious so we don’t undo all the good work that’s gotten us to this point.