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The coming fight over social distancing in Park City could be a battlefield

I never thought I would hear President Trump agree with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Both are worried about the economic effects of shutting down the country. In the words of both, “the cure can’t be worse than the virus.” They have a point.

Then you have Governor Herbert who, today, shut down Utah schools until May 1. That is the opposite signal. While some parents are fortunate to be able to work while their kids stay home, that’s not the case for many of us. If our kids are home-schooled for over a month, our jobs are impacted — if we can keep them.

Yet, unless the Washington winds shift direction, it is likely that within a week that the Federal Government will direct people to get back to work — damn the social distancing. That could be good for much of Park City’s economics. Vail would open back up. Alterra could ramp up work on Snow Park Lodge renovations. Restaurants would reopen. Non-essential services would come back online. People could get back to work.

Yet, at what costs? The economics would change for the better, at least in the short-term. Would health impacts get worse? I think most health professionals would say yes.

That sets up an interesting argument. Should Utah schools reopen early if Washington declares the country is open for business? Probably. Many of us can’t get back to business as usual if we are playing Laura Ingles Wilder.

Yet, if decisions to reopen are based on economics, and not health, is that in the best interest of our children and teachers? Probably Not.

A friend and I had been debating before the Corona Virus whether Park City is too big to fail at this point. His point was that while we may have crashed a few times in the past, it couldn’t happen again.

He’s probably right, but I would point out that Vail has a lot of debt. Alterra is a VC company, which aren’t typically completely stable. Two-thirds of Park City (proper) homes and one-third of Basin homes are second homes. Second homes get liquidated first.

Depressions do funny things.

If the White House says “get back to work,” does the Governor agree? If the Guv says “go back to school and work”, does the Park City School Board and Superintendent stand up and say “no”? Or do they agree with him that the economics are more important? What about the teachers’ union?

What does the Summit County Health Department do? Do they keep restaurants closed for safety or do they defer to a higher power? Do they enable businesses to be cranked up or play it cautiously?

I have no idea how this will play out, but regardless of your opinion on the subject, it will tell us a lot about those who lead us. What do they value? It should be really interesting to watch.


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