Gazette opinion: Let's not rush, but let's not delay, either

Gazette opinion: Let's not rush, but let's not delay, either

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As the COVID spring plays out in Montana, sadness and shock are constant. Sadness for the victims of this disease and their families, and shock at how fast all of our lives have been wrenched into change, and how much economic damage has been wreaked.

Gratitude is also a recurring theme, and rightly so. As noted here previously, so many are doing so much, under tough circumstances. But first and foremost we owe a debt of thanks to the public-health experts on our Unified Health Command, who are working together spectacularly for our protection.

The Command, comprising RiverStone Health, Billings Clinic, SCL Heath/St. Vincent Health, and Yellowstone County Emergency and General Services, deserves our deep appreciation. RiverStone’s John Felton and the entire team were quick to develop a plan and adapt to change in a very difficult environment.

They have been in solid communication with numerous stakeholders and leaders throughout our community, and have helped ensure that our citizens are safe as possible. They have made difficult decisions and continue to chart a course toward reopening businesses and public gathering spots.

We are grateful, too, to Gov. Steve Bullock, who has also had to make perhaps the most difficult decision of all — to order all but essential workers to shelter in place during this pandemic.

We reject the complaints of those who have taken the state to task for “overreacting.” The governor, listening to experts, has done the right thing for the state, painful though it has been, and will continue to be, for all.

On Friday, the governor mapped out some sensible metrics for when to begin a phased-in rollback of some restrictions, including the stay-at-home order.

He said that Adjutant General Matthew Quinn of the Montana National Guard has started a process to plan for a gradual re-opening of the state, based on military strategic planning principles.

Specifically, Bullock said he would need to see two weeks of sustained reductions in daily COVID-19 case growth, as well as sufficient testing capability and hospital capacity, to set things in motion.

Fair enough. There’s no point in rushing to re-open and undoing weeks of sacrifice.

But there’s no reason to delay, either.

The critics are right about one thing: This is not New York City. And while that doesn’t mean reasonable precautions are not necessary, it does mean Montana may be able to relax some restrictions sooner than other places.

The current stay-at-home order extends to April 24. We certainly hope that COVID May and June could be much better than COVID April has been.

Will we be back to “normal”? No, clearly not. But better.

We urge the governor to do everything he can to bring as much of the state’s commerce and normal social interaction back as soon as possible. We are confident that he will do so.

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