Social distancing worked before, will work again

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

Twelve months ago, I had no clue where Gunnison, Colorado, was, but it was on the way to Telluride, so we decided to stay there for a couple of days and I’m glad we did. Any town with working pickup trucks, recycling bins, and a coffee shop/bike shop combo speaks to me. Even more good fortune, we caught spectacular wildflowers blooming up the road in Crested Butte — CB, to the locals.

While agriculture is a big deal for Gunnison County, so is tourism, skiing during the winter, then hiking, hunting, fishing, and boating the rest of the year. Like most places, second homeowners flock to popular tourist destinations. Earlier this month, Gunnison County Public Health director banned all non-residents, including non-resident homeowners, from Gunnison County for the duration of the health order. Residents who travel could, under certain circumstances, be subject to fines or imprisonment, too. The order noted that, like Walton County, Gunnison County has limited medical infrastructure, but its altitude would exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms, particularly for people not acclimated to the mountains.

During the 1918 influenza epidemic, the Gunnison County’s sheriff didn’t need no stinkin’ public health order. Instead, he set up a checkpoint on Monarch Pass and barred entry for four months. Even residents were not allowed to leave. Conductors warned train passengers to remain on board or face immediate quarantine. Then no one called it social distancing. But it was effective. Gunnison County had no deaths until the restrictions ended.

While the calamity hit in 1918, it lingered in some places until 1920, but cities with strong social distancing measures experienced fewer deaths. When rules were relaxed, in almost every case, fatalities went up. Epidemiologists tout Saint Louis’ quick action, but even they saw infections spike and had to reinstate curbs. Any large gathering, whether a rowdy party or a church group, can produce an explosion of infections. For example, a funeral in Albany, Georgia, (correctly pronounced all benny), led to a COVID-19 eruption.

In a football game, a false start is a five-yard penalty; while relatively minor, it can be catastrophic, especially on third or fourth down. Many argue we should restart our economy. I get it; if you annualize the first quarter numbers the S&P 500 is worse than in 1930. But as Jerome Powell, Trump’s Fed chair appointee warns, a false start where we partially open the economy could result in a spike of new cases, “and we would go back again to square one.”

Like everyone, I want the economy up and running. Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, warns the virus makes the timeline, not us. Cases in Florida, as of April 10, continue their morbid rise, up over 85% in a week. We should take directions from public health experts, not pundits or politicians.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.