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'In reality, it will mean we have to continue to work together to social-distance and protect each other.'

As the chair for the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, I have participated in daily calls regionally, locally and at the state level with the governor related to COVID-19. I have ALEX TARDIFbeen working hard with my colleagues to find a safe solution to slowly re-open our county, and we are there! On Monday, May 11, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to pass resolution 42-2020. This resolution approved the county's framework for reopening under the governor's criteria for Phase 1. That framework was then sent on to the governor's office and OHA for approval. We must now await that approval to move forward.

These last couple of months have been challenging times. We, as a society, have been faced with a situation unlike any we have encountered in the past, and yet in some ways similar. It has felt like we are at war, and many have been reminded of those terrible events that past generations encountered when life as they knew it completely changed.

This pandemic has caused some of us to pause, while others have had to go into overdrive. Some of us are well rested and ready to embrace "normal," whatever that might look like now, while others are exhausted and longing for a vacation. Everyone's situation looks different, but the common denominator is that both of those dreams are a ways off, and those dreams are about us!

The state and Columbia County have followed strict social distancing measures to flatten the curve and protect ourselves and each other, and especially our community's most vulnerable population from this. We have maintained a low number of cases. We have accomplished our goal. Now the time has come to open back up — but cautiously.

Soon, we will reopen our communities, but what does Phase 1 mean? What does "reopen" actually look like? On paper, it means that restaurants and bars can open to limited, reduced customers and must comply with social distancing measures. It means that we can gather with friends, six feet apart, in groups of no more than 25. It means I can finally get my hair cut, assuming my barber can meet the state requirements.

In reality, it will mean we have to continue to work together to social-distance and protect each other from the invisible enemy that is COVID-19. Today was a big win, well-earned after weeks of hard work, but it's just the beginning. There are more phases to come. We must keep the transmission rate down in order for this to continue to work. We must walk before we can run, even though some are ready to sprint to the beaches (don't go to the beach!).

As chair of the Board of County Commissioners, I will continue to facilitate the crucial conversations I've been having with the governor, our regional partners, community members and county team members to lead Columbia County forward, while keeping us safe and well. I will continue to do my best to remember that we are all stressed out and to meet each other with grace and compassion and carry on with a level head. We must take care of each other and be kind to one other. I will continue to support and lead our community. We will carry on together, as one, as us!

Alex Tardif, Columbia County Commissioner — Chair


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