Thank heavens, 2020 is grinding to a close. This year has been filled with presidential drama and losses attributed to COVID-19 that included loved ones and family businesses. 2020 has been a year that no one will be sad to bid farewell. Pity poor 2021 since so many have such high hopes for good things to happen in the new year. We hope the new year will be able to live up to everyone’s hopes.
Here are a few of our hopes for the New Year.
•We hope that the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines will be swift and smooth. We are confident that healthcare providers in Teton County, including the Teton County Health Department will work together to make the roll-out here as stress-free as possible. Many of us have questions about when we will be eligible to receive the vaccinations. That depends on the availability of vaccine, but the Montana Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has sketched out a broad outline for two phases of vaccinations, starting in December and going well into 2021. The phases recommend giving the vaccine first to frontline healthcare workers and then long-term care and assisted living facility residents. The first phase is broken into three sub-phases designed to reach the most vulnerable people and essential workers first. The second phase, which won’t start until July 2021 will be the broadest, offering the vaccine to everyone 16 and older who has not already received the two-shot protection from COVID-19.
•We hope that the Montana Legislature and all statewide elected positions now held by Republicans will work cooperatively with the Democratic minority to pass legislation that can be broadly embraced by most Montanans, and that this legislation does not take funding away from county and city governments and school boards. These are the local government entities that have the most impact on our lives on a daily basis. These folks are all charged with offering us top-notch public educations, clean and working water and sewer systems, graded and maintained county roads and helpful county offices. They all depend on a share of state funding, and any attempt to cut that funding would be a blow to rural Montana residents, farmers and ranchers, small business owners and rural children. We hope the GOP majority is not solely focused on the larger cities as they consider and pass or reject proposed legislation.
•We hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will be widely accepted and bring an end to the restrictions on schools, student athletes and local businesses. The restrictions on people gathering have had devastating effects on small businesses, particularly local motels, restaurants and bars, but also most small retailers. As a community, we need to continue to focus on ways to support the men and women who are running businesses, creating jobs and giving back to the community. We encourage everyone in Teton County to look at their spending habits and find ways to keep as much of their expenses local as possible. Without strong customer support, local businesses will close and we will lose easy access to goods and services. Further, the loss of businesses will greatly impact nonprofits that rely, often, on significant support from business owners. And, as businesses fail, there will be fewer taxpayers to share the burden of supporting our schools, cities and counties. This is a death spiral for communities that we want to stave off, and we can, with a concerted effort to source, shop and spend locally.
•We hope that everyone will look at the deeply partisan divide that affects our country right now and that each of us will resolve to try to bridge that partisan divide by broadening our individual bubbles. That means Republicans having dinner with Democrats; city folk befriending a farmer or rancher; small business owners keeping an ongoing dialogue with their customers; those in the majority reaching out to those in the minority. Only by individual actions can we create change in our lives. Sometimes, people of different opinions will agree to disagree, and that is fine. But even more important is for people of different perspectives to agree upon sets of facts, facts that are not subject to change because of perspective. Really, can we all agree that the earth is indeed round? Can we agree that the sun is the center of our solar system? Can we agree that pollution is bad for our planet? Can we agree that agriculture is vital to human life? Can we at least start talking meaningfully about the hard subjects and learn how to listen to each other?
We know that the secret to 2021 being better than 2020 is for each of us to pledge to make it better. There will still be tragedy in 2021. People will lose loved ones to a host of causes. People will lose jobs. Divorces will happen. But beyond these individual sorrows, we as a community can do all we can to make this year better. This is a new year’s resolution for us all: Let each of us resolve to be nicer, kinder and more compassionate to all around us in 2021.