Local COVID-19 response reveals pioneer spirit
It is sometimes said that the true strength and resiliency of a person or entity is revealed when a crisis suddenly strikes.
Suddenly, life as we know it is turned on its head and things that are typically taken for granted are taken away or have to radically change in order to simply survive the situation.
This is true in households, businesses and for government entities, and right now, the entire Crook County community has been pushed to adjust to a drastically different new norm. About one week into March, the COVID-19 outbreak arrived in Central Oregon and picked up substantial momentum throughout the entire country. Social distancing measures demanded people not meet in groups of more than 250 people. Then 50. Then 10. And then people were told to stay home unless they had to pick up groceries, medication or go to work at jobs deemed essential.
Facing a disease that is highly contagious, not fully understood and deadly for certain portions of the population, people could have panicked. Restaurants owners could have wilted under the stress of dine-in business suddenly vanishing. School leaders could have struggled in the face of conventional education options dissipating.
But that didn't happen. Crook County, already known for and proud of its pioneering spirit, didn't flinch. Barely a day had passed after Gov. Kate Brown mandated the closure of dine-in restaurants before dozens of eateries launched impromptu take-out service. Some even added delivery. The on-the-spot change in business by multiple locations was impressive.
The school district didn't flinch either. Within days of a state-mandated school closure, the district went to work on plans to continue local education. Leaders met, determined to find a way for students to continue learning core subjects while following a stay-at-home mandate. This week, the Learn @ Home program launched. Hundreds of Chromebooks, many paid for courtesy of a Facebook grant, were distributed curbside by schools. Teachers were suddenly made available to communicate online. School buses were converted to Wi-Fi hotspots for households without adequate internet service. Simply put, they made it work.
In addition, the school district found a way to keep its meal service going. Buses are sent out daily to multiple locations so that students who depend on the meals will continue to receive them.
Crook County has changed. Driving through town, dramatically fewer cars fill the streets. Parks are mostly empty, with the exception of a few scattered people who are trying to follow social distancing guidelines but get out of the house for a bit. Local store checkout aisles now feature tape lines on the floor to keep people 6 feet apart.
But Crook County has not panicked. They haven't flinched. People are likely worried, unsure what the future holds and undoubtedly eager for this outbreak to end — but they are making the best of it. The pioneering spirit has again emerged in a time of crisis. The community's character has once again been revealed. We should be proud.
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