COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, Dr. Leon Kelly with the El Paso County Health Department, UCCS Economic Forum Director Tatiana Bailey, Ph.D., and Cheyenne Mountain District 12 superintendent Walt Cooper joined FOX21 News Tuesday night to answer your questions about coronavirus in southern Colorado.
The full questions plus the expert’s answers are available under each video clip.
Watch the hour-long panel in the three videos below:
MAYOR SUTHERS, TELL US WHAT WOULD BE THE TOP PRIORITIES FOR COLORADO SPRINGS?
First of all, thanks for having the forum, because obviously, we want to get facts out, because they need facts, need to listen to the health departments, not social media, things like that. I very much appreciate this forum. No. 1, from the city’s perspective, we have to make sure we continue the directory of delivery services. Police and fire services are absolutely necessary for a crisis like this, so we have to make sure we are continuing to deliver those services. Obviously, I have to look out for the safety of city employees. Some city employees working from home, and some are out delivering services, but we want to make sure we keep them safe. Firefighters and police officers are well equipped to keep safe. Thirdly, I at the city have to begin to prepare for the inevitable economic impact of this. We don’t know how severe it’s going to be, how long it’s going to take, but we know for the next couple months at least we are going to have a severe reduction in revenue. What does that mean going forward in terms of the delivery of continuing services, including public safety?
DOCTOR KELLY, TO CLARIFY ANY MISINFORMATION, HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM THE FLU? THE SYMPTOMS – SEVERITY, ETC.?
For 400 years, we have learned to deal with the flu virus. We have gotten good at predicting what it’s going to do every year. We have created vaccines as well as medication, and that’s not the case with the coronavirus. This is a novel virus, meaning we have never seen it before. There’s a lot of unknowns with what we are dealing with. When you have the flu virus, even a bad case, you can surround people who have it, who have the disease with healthcare workers who have been vaccinated. We aren’t able to do that with this virus, firefighters, healthcare workers, all of those people are just as susceptible to this virus than anyone else. That’s why this particular virus, because it’s new to us, has the potential to cause much broader failure of the infrastructure healthcare system, meaning doctors, nurses, healthy enough to take care of the people who really need it.
MR. COOPER, SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN CLOSED THIS WEEK AND NEXT. A NEIGHBORING STATE, KANSAS, WHO HAS FEWER CASES THAN COLORADO, JUST ANNOUNCED IT WILL CLOSE FOR THE REST OF THE SCHOOL YEAR. HOW LONG DO YOU THINK SCHOOLS ARE GOING TO STAY CLOSED?
We were fortunate in El Paso County that all El Paso County area districts share the same spring break. We made that commitment 15 years ago because of proximity and crossover of staff and parents and students, so it was relatively easy for us to come to that decision to go out early this week, couple that with next week which we were already scheduled to be off and give the 16-day window, including the weekends to buy us some time while we were trying to figure this out. So our original plan we would reconvene in the middle of next week, is what we’ve been telling folks across all the area districts and reassess whether we can come back to school on March 31 or not. I think it’s reasonable to believe we will extend beyond that; I think that we learned today, possibly by the end of this week, we will have further direction from the state level regarding recommendations for school closure. Still, we are following the best advice of the best experts, and we will take that In incremental steps as this is moving so quickly to try to project what a month looks like or two months looks like or frankly, even two weeks at this point is very difficult.
DOCTOR BAILEY, WITH THE STOCK MARKET DOING POORLY – HOW DOES THAT IMPACT COLORADO? WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO ABOUT THEIR 401KS?
I say don’t open your statements actually is what I’m telling most people. History in terms of the stock market has shown over and over again if you overreact and try to pull all your funds when things are this volatile, it doesn’t usually pay. It’s better I think to focus on necessities first. Let’s first talk about prevention, public health? What can we do to flatten the curve, as experts are saying? We have to think about some of the downstream effects, some of them are quite immediately for several industries particularly hospitality industry, transportation and so forth, and I mean, just today or yesterday, I think the airline industry asked for a $50 billion bail-out really is what it is. So we don’t know, you are right, what will transpire. But for now, the stock market, I’m not going to say, is irrelevant, but it’s going to be a ride. Anything above 15 or 20 in the volatility index is considered highly volatile. We have been around 70. That tells me basically we have as much uncertainty in the stock market and what’s going to happen with the economy as we do with the disease itself. So for that reason, I’m kind of putting that on a shelf. From an economic standpoint, trying to focus more on how do we help the people that need the help most.
MAYOR SUTHERS, WHAT PRECAUTIONS ARE BEING TAKEN TO ENSURE PRIMARY INFRASTRUCTURE (ELECTRICITY, WATER, WASTE, COMMUNICATIONS, FOOD) ARE FUNCTIONING IF THE SITUATION WORSENS?
First of all, I want to ensure the citizens we engage in contingency planning all the time for emergencies, and most of our planning quite frankly evolves around fire, flood, things like that. Still, we do talk about pandemics, and I have to tell you all of us are very surprised that the next emergency that we dealt with is, in fact, a pandemic of this nature and extent. But the utility workers are, you know, they are organized in a way that regardless of what happens, they will do what’s necessary for the delivery of utilities. City police and fire are ripped, equipped, have the masks and gowns, and things like that to do what they need to do, and to the extent it extends, and we need to get them more equipment, we will get that equipment for them. From an infrastructure standpoint in terms of the delivery of city services, folks can be assured we will do everything we can. We will get the cooperation of the state and federal government to make sure that we are equipped to do our job for as long as it takes.
DOCTOR KELLY, STATISTICS SHOW SUICIDE, CAR CRASHES, ETC. HAVE HIGHER MORTALITY RATES WHY ARE WE SO CONCERNED ABOUT THIS VIRUS AND WHY ARE WE SEEING SUCH AN UNPRECEDENTED REACTION ACROSS THE WORLD?
We can’t measure this purely on mortality. The reality is yes, things do happen, and people die from those, and those are things we chronically have to deal with and improve. Put this in perspective. 80% of the people who get the coronavirus are going to do just fine. They are going to have severe cold-like symptoms, maybe a flu, and they are going to do great, they are going to be sick for a few days and stay home and behave no differently than any other cold or flu that many of us have had many, many times. That’s good. That’s the good news, and it’s part of reminding people this is not the time to panic. That means 20% of the time, people who are infected with this virus will be much sicker, require a visit to the hospital. About 5% of that total is going to require severe intensive care, often ventilators, and other types of support. That’s still not too bad. If 100 people get the coronavirus, it means 20 of them are going to go to the hospital, and every one of our hospitals can deal with that. But if you magnify that to a thousand, massively you have got several hundred people who are showing up at the hospital and take that even more further, and you can see if you have that happen over a very short period of time, which is what we have seen in other countries, car crashes don’t come in on the same week. They spread out over time. That’s not what we are seeing with this virus. As you hear, a lot of us talk about altering the course of this, altering the curve and the peak, and that’s what we are talking about. We are talking about spreading the infections out over time, so even the sickest of us are still able to get care.
MR. COOPER, WOULD THERE BE ANY CONSIDERATION FOR STUDENTS COMING BACK TO SCHOOL IN THE SUMMER MONTHS? IF TIME HAS TO BE MADE UP, WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT TEACHERS/STUDENTS WHO ALREADY HAVE VACATION PLANS.
The question of how do we make up lost time really is one of the fundamental questions we are dealing with because there really is no effective way to replace the time we are missing right now, remote learning, extended school year, starting next school year early, all of those ideas have been bandied about a bit. And we’ll continue to look at how long we are actually out and what time we are trying to make up. There really is no direct correlation between adding time and making up time. It just doesn’t work that way for the things you mentioned. If it’s safe to go back to school in the summer, it means it’s safe for folks to do all the other things they would normally do in the summer. Quite frankly, after being pent up or restricted significantly in their daily life activities for weeks or a couple of months, many folks will make that choice, as likely they should. It really is a matter of taking this one step at a time based on how long we are out and what we can do to really have some measure of continuous learning during the time we are out and not thinking so much about how do we make up that lost time on the end of something else.
DOCTOR BAILEY, WITH MANY BUSINESSES, FORCED TO ADAPT OR COMPLETELY CLOSE, HOW DOES ALL OF THIS IMPACT LOANS? WHAT KIND OF PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES OR THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE TEMPORARY JOB LOSS?
Most people are familiar with what the federal reserve has done. Initially, you look at that and say how does that impact me personally? But it’s more of an upstream type of approach in which the federal reserve is trying to make money available to businesses, so they don’t have to lay off employees, so they don’t default on loans very much. We had a 50 basis cut about a week or so ago and on Sunday another cut. We are at pretty much zero. That’s on the monetary side. On the fiscal side, phase 1 was 8.3 billion that the Trump administration said they would put out there for vaccines, making testing free and so forth. Now that looks big, but a few days later, as in today, 850 billion is now what’s being talked about almost up to 1 trillion is the latest estimate I have heard for additional measures, and that’s going to be, could be payroll tax cut, that one is a bit contentious. It’s definitely going to be an extension of unemployment benefits and so forth. We know that some of these things are now kicking in. As an economist, I worry a little bit, most of the other downturns we have had really focused on one sector when you think about the banking industry or tech bust. This one is really hard to imagine in the industry that’s not impacted. So at what point can we continue to, you know, push for these types of stimulus package, and that is a question that’s out there. But what can we do in the interim? I think your question is a good one, because day to day, even with our community, you have a lot of businesses that are saying I can’t go a week without having people come into my doors. So we do have some emergency funds that are out there, I think Governor Polis has done an amazing job opening more resources for Coloradoans. Pikes Peak SBDC has on the website disaster relief information for small businesses. The Pikes Peak Workforce Center has been working around the clock in trying to help individuals file for unemployment claims, and they have all kinds of suggestions as well. There’s a small group coming together trying to figure out how do we make these resources as apparent and available to our fellow people, our neighbors, the businesses that we frequent. That’s what we can impact for now, and that’s what we probably have to focus on.
MAYOR SUTHORS, THIS NEXT QUESTION IS FROM BOB FROM BOB’S DISCOUNT MATTRESSES ASKS, HOW DO BUSINESSES GET ASSISTANCE DURING THIS TIME TO KEEP OUR DOORS OPEN AND PAY OUR EMPLOYEES AND PAY TAXES?
Unlike the numbers that Dr. Bailey just gave, all the very large federal numbers, the City of Colorado Springs has a budget of 330 million, 73% of that is wages to city employees. We do police, fire, public works, transportation, and parks. As a practical matter, the city is not going to be a source of money to assist small businesses; it’s going to be largely dollars and cents from the federal government in the form of these large packages that Dr. Bailey is talking about. We will see packages from the small business administration to help small businesses, and we will see obviously unemployment, and I think hourly wage earners, one of the things being talked to about today, is actually sending every American worker $1,000 check. So as a practical matter, it’s the federal government that doesn’t have to worry about a balanced budget that’s going to deliver these programs. The City of Colorado Springs, which by law has to have a balanced budget and has to deliver police and fire services is not going to be the source. But we are going to work with the state of Colorado, and we are going to work with the federal government, make sure that our citizens know what’s available to them. We are going to work with the workforce development folks and SBDC that Dr. Bailey just talked about. So I think small businesses as the package comes out of congress, we will become very much aware of what help is available.
DOCTOR KELLY, CAN THOSE WHO CATCH THE CORONAVIRUS AND RECOVER GET REINFECTED AND/OR BECOME A CARRIER?
A lot of things about the virus we don’t know, because it’s so new. We do know about other coronaviruses that are similar. What we can’t say for sure currently, the hope is this will behave like many others, and once you do get exposed, you do develop an immunity to it. You are no longer susceptible to it in the future, but obviously, that has to continue to be looked at.
MR. COOPER, IF SCHOOLS HAVE TO GO TO AN ONLINE INSTRUCTION, HOW WOULD IT FUNCTION? CAN THE ONLINE SERVERS HANDLE ALL OF THE TRAFFIC? WHAT ABOUT KIDS THAT DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO INTERNET?
Quite frankly, that’s the largest dilemma we are struggling with not only across the Pikes Peak region but across the state. What we are really talking about is trying to figure out the most effective way to do remote learning. Online learning or eLearning is not a fair assessment of not only what might be capable but also realistic. I was on a phone conference today with a colleague from Hayden, and on a given day, if you walk into a fourth grade or sixth grade or eighth-grade classroom in District 11 or Academy 20 or Hayden, Colorado, the learning opportunities, the instruction that’s going on, the learning environment probably looks very, very similar. If you transition that out of the classroom and remote learning and now across the state, we have everything from Hayden, Colorado that not only has no internet access but very little cell phone coverage to robust opportunities along the front range. Not only can we never realistically recreate opportunities in a classroom, remote environment, and the chance we create by trying to do that are significant as well. Especially for our most fragile populations that might not have devices available, connectivity, not to mention the capacity of individual teachers and schools to provide that instruction. We can keep kids engaged. The longer we are out, the more difficult it is to keep kids engaged in authentic learning activities. But those activities may be something as rudimentary as an email from a teacher from a parent with a suggested activity attached to it—two-way video conferencing with a small group of students and a teacher, and all along that continuum. But what really is important to realize is the thought we can recreate in a remote environment anything near to the authentic learning environments we can create in a classroom with a highly qualified teacher in front of kids, just is not going to happen.
DOCTOR BAILEY, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE LONG TERM EFFECTS OF THIS FROM AN ECONOMY STANDPOINT?
Well, the only other somewhat similar example that we have is probably the Spanish flu of 1918-1919, and it was also a pandemic and affected people worldwide, in fact, all seven continents. The interesting thing is it did trigger a recession, but the recession was only seven months long, and it was very much a v-shaped recovery if you will. What we don’t know is whether there will be a resurgence of the disease. We are starting to see some suspicious reinfections in Japan and China, and we don’t know yet exactly where that’s going to land. If something like that happens, which also, by the way, happened in 1919, most people don’t know there were more deaths from the second wave of the Spanish flu than the first wave, then maybe are we looking at a w-shaped recovery. Is this going to be hard enough that it’s going to be something like the Great Recession with very anemic recovery simply because it was prolonged, hard, and people were reticent to go out and spend the way that they normally would? Economists — we are all saying we’re probably already in a recession. It takes a while for the data to show. What we would like to see is a really, really quick rebound and a lot of pent up demand and things getting back to normal. The truth of the matter is we don’t know yet.
MAYOR SUTHERS, IS THERE ANOTHER AVENUE OF TAX REVENUE TO GENERATE THE FUNDS EXPECTED FROM TOURISM?
Probably not. The City of Colorado Springs, the vast majority of its revenue comes from sales tax, because of the Gallagher amendment and the inner play of Colorado law, a very small percentage of the revenue, about 7% comes from property taxes. So this loss of sales tax that we are going to encounter is really unrecoverable, and the question is going to be how long is it going to last? What kind of expenditure cuts are we going to have to make? How deep to deal with it? Because there really isn’t any alternative form of revenue to be had.
DOCTOR KELLY, WHAT IS THE AVERAGE LENGTH OF TIME THAT THAT THOSE WHO HAVE CORONAVIRUS ARE CONSIDERED CONTAGIOUS?
So one of the things we talk about is the incubation period. If you have been exposed to someone who has the virus, it can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days for the symptoms to show up, which is why we are asking people if you have exposure to quarantine yourself for that period. For folks who have the virus and become sick, our recommendation is you self-isolate for ten days following the start of the infection, and also have at least 72 hours where you have no fever or significant symptoms without being on any sort of medication that could mask it. Once you have met those two criteria, you are welcomed back into the world, and let’s get back to work.
MR. COOPER, WILL YOU BE CHANGING THE NUMBER OF “SEAT HOURS” REQUIRED FOR STUDENTS TO ATTEND THIS YEAR?
There is an answer to this, the State Department of Education sets the required instructional hours, and that’s not set locally by school districts. Actually, many of us have already received a waiver from those requirements due to the severe weather that we have encountered earlier in the winter, like snow days like I haven’t seen in 35 years in doing this. Direction from the Department of Education is that their expectation is that school districts make a good faith effort in the continuity of learning and to make up lost hours like in snow days, adjusted calendars, and that sort of thing, so that really is something the department is well aware of, they have given an indication that those waivers or the restrictions around those hours will be very flexible moving forward. What that looks like, if it’s on an individual decision based on individual districts or if it’s a statewide blanket decision, has not been made by the department, but they are considering both of those as options.
DR. BAILEY, FOX21 VIEWER DAN ASKS DO YOU AGREE WITH THE FINAL STEPS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN THUS FAR? WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Well, the ones that I talked about previously in terms of what the Federal Reserve has done and what the Trump Administration has done, you know, hindsight is 2020, and I don’t think any of us saw this coming. But public health specialist have been saying this was a potential threat. In addition to, you know, don’t panic from a financial perspective or health perspective, prevent, I think we have got that in our minds as well, but also public health. Let’s use this as a good lesson that we have to think very carefully, elevate the leaders that look at something and say they, maybe I’m not an expert on that and understand that they need to get more information and fund things appropriately. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. We were all probably somewhat — thought we were immune because it hasn’t happened to the extent in a long time. In that context, we have to think about population increase. It took 200,000 years for humans to get to 1 billion. From 1950 to today, we went from 2 and a half billion people to 7.8 billion people. There is no way that’s not going to have ramifications in terms of the interconnectedness of individuals, in terms of the scale and the incidents and prevalence of the disease. For those reasons, we have to fund public health from the get-go, and I’m hoping that is one of the silver linings. The environment is a big component of this. Most people don’t realize 7 million deaths a year occur because of strictly carbon emissions. Paying attention to those sorts of things going forward and thinking in a forward way in terms of how do we pay attention to that before we get to this type of situation. What else can the government do? I think so finally we are at a point where people are saying this is really serious. We are going to have to do things locally. We are going to have to do things statewide. We are going to have to cooperate, again because of the interconnectedness closing borders is not 100% effective because we have the disease in about 150 countries. All of these different things, people coming together, countries are coming together, and thinking and acting proactively is going to be of paramount importance today and in moving forward.
MAYOR SUTHORS, HAS THE CITY TAKEN ADDITIONAL MEASURES FOR PREPAREDNESS FOR LOCAL EMS, AND ACUTE FACILITIES AND HIGH-RISK LOCATIONS, LIKE NURSING HOMES?
That’s a better question for Dr. Kelley because I can tell you that the city takes its direction from the health experts, and I have to compliment — we are not a group of health experts ourselves. We have to rely upon CDC passing down information to the state, state passing down the information to the local health experts, and I want to compliment them because I think their approach has been step-by-step, day-by-day, making sure we are aware of developments and if it’s okay, I think Dr. Kelley needs to talk about, you know, what we are doing in terms of specifically our hospitals and our nursing homes and things like that.
This is really a community-wide effort. There isn’t an agency that isn’t touched by what’s happening. So the main goal of public health at this point where we are is to, one, educate, tell the public what’s happening, do what they can to protect themselves and get through this difficult period, but the other thing is to make sure that we are in constant contact with our hospitals, law enforcement, first responders, and our long-term facilities, particularly with the focus on our special populations which would include folks in assisted living, folks in long-term care, our folks in the jail. These are the places where separation is not possible. Because of the conditions that they are in, and so we are working diligently or literally around the clock with all of these folks, writing policies as we go to make sure we do everything we can to sustain the viability of that critical infrastructure, the ability for our healthcare system locally to not only take care of the folks who are sick from this but just because we have the pandemic doesn’t mean people stop having babies, stop having appendicitis, stop having car crashes. We need to be able to take care of those people as well. That’s what we are doing every minute of every day, making sure we continue to support the critical functions of this community.
MR. COOPER, WE JUST FOUND OUT TODAY THAT STATE ASSESSMENT TESTING LIKE C-MAS HAS BEEN CANCELED. ANY PLAN ON COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS, SAT AND PSAT?
So all the testing that’s associated with state-mandated testing has been put on pause for the remainder of the school year, which actually is a real blessing to us if we are able to return when we are able to return. We will be able to maximize that time for instruction in engaging in authentic learning activities with kids as opposed to the disruption that that level of testing provides every year. So that’s good news, and the SAT and ACT really is not even a state-level decision. That will be made by the College Board and those testing agencies, there are some online options that we just became aware of this afternoon, and I’m too new to that even to know exactly how that works, how the testing environments are operational in an electronic format and those types of things and the suspension of this year’s CMAS by the Department of Education was the first step in the right direction to allow school districts to maximize what time we can get back this Spring. To the earlier question that we really can’t replicate what we can do in the classroom with highly qualified teachers in front of their kids, so, you know, in many regards that’s 10, 12, 14 days of instruction that we have been able to get back if we can get back into the schoolhouse.
DOCTOR BAILEY, WOULD, IN YOUR OPINION, AN ECONOMIC STIMULUS WORK?
I think it really depends on the severity. There’s no question that some degree of stimulus is needed, and each day it seems like the proposals for that are expanding because, as we stated, this isn’t a one or two industry shock. This is a demand-side shock and supply-side shock. People are not out buying like they normally do, and the supply chains are disrupted. We also have all the industries being impacted at once. It’s a bit unfortunate too around the same time the coronavirus hit the United States is when a shock to the oil industry happened. I worry a little bit, you know, Colorado has such a robust economy and diversified economy, which has been an ace in the hole really for the state. Two of our major industries are hospitality and the mining industry, the oil industry, and we know that we are going to get hit. Already the state is talking about tens of millions of dollars lost in revenue through taxation. You know you put all of that together, and there’s no question. We are going to need all kinds of relief for individuals. One day at a time. I think that these are the rainy days, and I think economists have been saying for a while, we want to make sure that we don’t increase the deficit too much so that we have the ability to do different things, but right now it’s borrowing. The Federal Reserve is trying to ease borrowing for businesses and individuals, and the government is having to step in at the federal level to do things like extending unemployment and extend I.R.S. deadlines and things like that. So hopefully, all of those different pieces can kind of bridge us until we get to the other side of this virus.
WE HAVE A QUESTION FROM A VIEWER THAT SAID I KNOW IT’S HARD, YOU HAVE EVERYBODY ELSE STAYING HOME, BEING QUARANTINED, AND YOU HAVE HOMELESS POPULATION. WHAT CAN YOU DO TO TAKE CARE OF THE HOMELESS POPULATION?
Once again, working with the health department authorities. We have to do what we can in our shelters to accomplish whatever hygiene is necessary; whatever distancing is possible, as Dr. Kelley says, there are certain environments that are difficult. That’s one of them. Make sure that individuals showing symptoms, there’s an intervention and available health resources for them. One of the things we are talking about right now is providing more space. In other words, more physical space where we can separate our sheltered individuals so that they are at a more physical distance from each other. I think there will be some progress in the next couple of days.
DOCTOR KELLY, LAST NIGHT THE GOVERNOR ORDERING RESTAURANTS TO ONLY OFFER CARRY OUT OR DELIVERY. SO CLAUDIA, A FOX21 VIEWER ON THE PHONE ASKS HOW DO WE KNOW THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PREPARING/DELIVERING FOOD DON’T HAVE THE VIRUS?
We do know some things. We are learning this along the way. This is not transmissible through food. The problem is not the restaurants. The problem is not the staff at the restaurant. The problem is the gathering, the large groups of individuals. Part of getting through this process is not just dealing with the virus, but coming to terms with how much our life has changed suddenly, right? So the mental health and the changes that are to our lives, fundamental things about our lives that we enjoy are just as damaging as what we see when we talk about the symptoms of it. One of the things we are encouraging the Public Health Department is to do safe things that still feed your soul, and there are a few things better than sharing a nice meal with your family. And we are working with the city, working with the Mayor to help these businesses continue to provide that. We are going to do that in the safest possible way so that we can still enjoy our lives and provide important economic fuel to businesses that are important to our community.
Dr. Kelley and I met this morning with representatives from the restaurant industry, and I think it’s apparent to us that you are going to see real interesting creativity on their part in terms of expanding pick-up, curbside, and all that sort of thing. Frankly, based on the information that he provided, I would really encourage people to take advantage. This is one way this they can still participate in the economy, help workers that might otherwise be laid off but are able to cook and do those sorts of things, and from all appearances, it’s risk — very low risk involved, and I hope that we will reward these folks that are looking for creative ways to serve us.
MR. COOPER, IF SCHOOLS STAY CLOSED, WILL TEACHERS STILL GET PAID? WILL THEY WORK FROM HOME?
The short answer to that is yes, teachers will be paid and teachers will continue to work. Quite frankly the longer we are out, I think the harder teachers are going to be working. They are going to be tasked with working in an environment that is completely unfamiliar to them, designing new lessons, finding new resources, so in many ways, for them, it’s going to be as equally challenging as it is going to be for the students to adapt to a new learning environment. If schools are out, that doesn’t mean that learning stops. We will do everything we can. every school district is going to work very, very hard to do whatever remote learning we can to keep kids engaged but that will be very challenging on the teachers as well. As well as our special service providers, you know, we can’t stop services, speech-language services, for example, special education services, counseling services. All of those are still incumbent upon us to do the best we can to put those services in front of students.
DR. BAILEY, I’M GOING TO CIRCLE BACK TO LOCAL BUSINESSES. YOU SAID THERE WAS SPECIFICALLY USER-FRIENDLY WEBINAR THAT THESE BUSINESSES CAN USE AND ACCESS RIGHT NOW.
Yeah, in addition to the Pikes Peak SPDC, and the executive director a friend of mine told me today there’s going to be a webinar on Friday that anyone can register for with fantastic resources, how to’s, how to access some of the relief that’s out there. As Mayor Suthers mentioned, the state of Colorado has submitted for the SBA disaster relief, and as soon as the funds are released and approved for that, that will increase the number of resources. I’m going to participate in the webinar on Friday, you know, for informational purposes, and my understanding is that there’s a live link on the SPDC website. And CDLE also has fantastic resources that in the last few days they have been putting up on their website as well. A lot of those linked to other ones, so there are good things that small businesses can look into to be proactive about what they are doing.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE PEOPLE CALLING THE RESPONSE AN OVERREACTION?
I think they are incorrect. If they are paying attention to reliable sources, our health departments, I don’t think it’s an overreaction. As I said earlier, I think our health departments have monitored the situation, tracked it when they see community spread. They make appropriate recommendations. On the other hand, you know, if you are out buying guns and things like that on the basis of other information you are hearing on the internet or social media, there may be a lot of people that are overreacting. I have a feeling that in the financial area as Dr. Bailey says, history says you probably ought to leave things alone. People may be overreacting from an economic standpoint. Some people may be on the basis of bad information, overreacting from a health protection standpoint. I can say that I feel comfortable if they pay very close attention to the advice coming down from health experts, I think the steps that have been recommended are very appropriate and are not an overreaction.
No, from a public health perspective, it’s not, and we can look to several other countries around the world, some who handled it well, and some who haven’t. Those who handled it well, have taken measures similar, in Colorado and El Paso County. There’s a limited number of ways you have to fight a novel virus without vaccines and really medicine on the table, you have really got two things, one is to prevent the virus from spreading. The work the Public Health Department does is identify officials who are infected, track the people they have had contact with and get those folks into quarantine and prevents the virus from spreading to person to person. What we have here, where you have person to person spread, our only weapon at that point is social distancing. You have to reduce the fuel that the virus has to continue to consume. It’s like a wildfire. Things like the seasonal flu are a small brush fire that’s easily manageable. This is much more like a raging wildfire. We have to get people apart so the virus can’t spread as quickly as it possibly could. People are going to get infected. That’s the reality. But as I said before, that’s okay. For most of us, it’s not going to be any different than the cold or flu that we had before. But what we can’t have is an out of control spread. That’s what you get when you do nothing, which is why we are taking the appropriate measures now because the things we do today, tomorrow and the next day will have massive benefits so we can get through this and get back to life as we know it.
I don’t think it’s an overreaction, I think a week ago my colleagues and I, first of all, I’m proud of the cooperation among all the superintendents in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak area, and we have a great working relationship, and when we came together a week ago and decided to close early, I think we were criticized by many as overreacting. I think in retrospect, it wasn’t an overreaction, and I’m proud of the proactive measures that we took there, and I think to the mayor’s point, what we all have to do is base our decisions and base our reactions on data and facts and the experts. If we do that, I don’t see any of us overreacting.
I already mentioned as far as investment accounts and so forth, you are better off not overreacting. Some people are concerned about that especially if they are close to retirement or in their retirement years. But really let’s deal with the issues at hand. Why not turn some of that energy into some positive things. Today I was on a great call with some other people in the economic development community, and we have decided we are going to do a conference call, and we are going to talk about what each of the players is doing in the community in order to help the everyday resident really, the business, the elderly, and we all work in somewhat different silos but we cross over a lot, too, and those types of things, I think, that’s where I would like to overreact. I would like to react in a way that is really forward-looking and thinking about how do we help people today? We don’t have all the information just yet, and that is unsettling, but we can use the information that we do have, as has been stated, to make some of the decisions we need to make for today and tomorrow.
MAYOR SUTHORS, WE HAVE A QUESTION FROM A VIEWER CONSIDERING, MAYOR, YOUR BACKGROUND AT THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS SOME CITIES IN THE U.S. HAVE MOVED TO LOWER INMATE POPULATION AS THE CORONAVIRUS FEARS GROW. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT IS CONSIDERED?
I think it’s realistic in some populations but not others. I think when you have in some of our county jails pending, you know, nonviolent offenders, pending trial, things like that, I think we have to look at whether we can do releases that limit exposures and the kinds of conditions that would be conducive to the spread of the disease. But from a practical matter, you know, there is a segment, a very, very violent offenders in the Colorado Department of Corrections, and I think we just have to deal with the fact that we are going to have to do what we can to protect them within the environment that they are in, but from a public safety standpoint, I certainly would not recommend releases of these very serious offenders.
I just want to say that I think that we are taking the appropriate steps, and I know this is hard, and these have been very difficult decisions to make, but ultimately they are the right decision, and for most of us, as I have said, this isn’t going to be a big deal. You know, to get sick. But for others of us, our grandparents, for some of us our parents, this could be a very big deal. As we go about our days, let’s think about those folks.
I would say mostly be patient. This thing is moving very, very quickly as we know. We get more information every day, and new information every day, and I know a lot of people are stressed and anxious about graduation, and things happening throughout the spring and into the summer, and I would urge folks to be patient. We are not kicking the can down the road, acting on good data and information as we get it, and as we are able to make solid decisions about what next steps look like, we will make those decisions.
I have said plenty. One thing I will reiterate is not to panic. As Mayor Suthers says, let’s use the data that we have as we get it. It is changing all the time. Let’s be patient. We have to be patient, especially those of us who have kids at home that are cooped up and trying to figure that out. But let’s also take that opportunity to maybe think about things a little bit differently, moving forward, think outside of our box. Our box has been a happy one, and foundations have been shaken a little bit. But maybe we can use that information in positive ways moving forward.
Americans are resilient. Coloradoans are resilient, and citizens of Colorado Springs are resilient. We have overcome things in the past. Fire, flood, this is a new challenge, severe challenge. It’s going to be painful. We don’t know exactly how painful. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a time for leadership, and the folks you have heard from tonight, including myself, have to exercise that leadership, provide you the facts so we can get through this. But we will get through it. Hopefully, we will be better for it. The fact of the matter is it’s also going to take shared sacrifice, and it’s going to be painful for all of us, and we are going to have to work together as a community to protect those folks who need protecting. And hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will be able to celebrate the fact that we have once again overcome the tremendous challenge.