Colorado has known hard times before that rattled the nation: wildfires, floods, mass shootings. And when they were over, we gathered and mourned, then moved on.
With coronavirus, we mourn alone. Politics is a business built on guesses and worry, and, right now, no one has a good idea to venture.
I asked some politicians when this would be over. When the new beginning begins. They couldn’t say. I asked Ski Country USA what the day after tomorrow would look like in tourism, as resorts send home employees for the season with no idea what next year’s economy might look like.
They didn’t know.
President Donald Trump guessed a month ago that the country had 15 cases that would soon dwindle to zero. Guessing has a bad track record these days.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is working on the Republican plan to rebuild the economy once people and businesses get on their feet, one that’s tangled in congressional partisanship, because we haven’t changed that much.
“This economy and the American people have responded in an unprecedented way, and that’s why Congress has to take unprecedented action to get it back up and running,” he told me in a phone call while still in self-quarantine.
That’s a lot easier said than done, but Gardner — a respected Republican who sits on key Senate committees — is in a position to guide the recovery and look out for Colorado on the national scheme of things.
When the Trump administration handed out an initial $560 million in recovery grants to local communities, Colorado was awarded less than $10 million, which is below the per-state average and less than Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia and a bunch of others.
Maybe Trish Zornio, one of the Democrats hoping to challenge Gardner in November and a world-class biomedical researcher, was my best chance of balancing science and politics into a prognostication.
Biomedical researchers like her have been concerned about Trump’s cuts to staff and funding around pandemic risk and research for three years, she said. That was part of what motivated her to run.
I called to talk about her path forward in the race. The conversation turned into a grim examination of world health and American leadership — how we’ve learned from the coronavirus that science shapes public policy, global economies and who lives or dies.
When you fight against Mother Nature, Mother Nature wins. Insight and vigilance are our best defense, Zornio explained.
“We’ve been talking about this for years,” she said of scientists. “This isn’t new in our communities. This is why people in my field have been advocating for more scientists in places like the Senate. We have no scientists on the White House staff, and this is what we get.
“This has been wholly mishandled, and it’s frustrating, because it shouldn’t take something like COVID-19 to make us understand the importance of science.”
Our country has never been more populated, and society is highly mobile at a time we’re moving toward information warfare and biological warfare, Zornio said.
Coronavirus demonstrates how the world can be brought to its knees.
Now, it’s incumbent on leaders not just to regain footing but become strong enough to withstand the next pandemic, natural or nefarious.
The best plan we can make, one that won’t make God laugh, is a plan to be kind. We can all do it, and it doesn’t take a vote or cost a dime.
Cesslie Joy Pharr, the volunteer services coordinator at Brookdale Hospice in Colorado Springs, put that revelation in my increasingly cranky noggin late on a Friday afternoon. She emailed a Colorado Springs Gazette editor to ask people to reach out from afar to residents and staff at hospices, where people are shut in and scared, where staff can only go in the rooms for wounds and death, she said. She suggested “encouraging words, scripture, a poem, even a postcard to cheer up an isolated elder.
“This gives people in our community who feel helpless a chance to feel like they’re making a difference, and it is making a positive difference for those who receive these cards and letters,” she wrote.
There’s not much else we can do, but we can do that much.
House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder is a forward-thinker whose way of explaining things is something I’ve admired a long time. She breaks down complicated concepts of government and science in terms I can understand.
She’s the brains and legislative brawn behind last year’s Climate Action Plan and, directly or indirectly, most of the environmental policy that makes it through the Colorado House.
“The people of this state are coming together and supporting each other in wonderful ways,” she told me in a Sunday evening text. “When this public health emergency is over, we are going to need to work together at all levels to repair our economy, help people find new jobs, stay in their homes, and restart our small businesses.
“We’ll also have to mitigate the impact of a severe revenue shortfall on our state budget. This virus will change our state and our lives in a lot of ways, but when it’s over, I know that Coloradans will be ready to get to work.”