It was our intention this week to engage in a robust celebration of Earth Day, planting trees, celebrating accomplishments and honoring our leaders in the 50-year-old struggle that has gained momentum more recently.
Members of the business community had hoped to celebrate by rolling out new conservation initiatives and our EAC and members of borough council looked forward to new initiatives including efforts to limit the use of single use plastics.
There was a virtual celebration with environmental leaders on Earth Day, Wednesday. However, as much as we wanted to be part of a vigorous celebration, it is a difficult focus at this time. The reality is that most anything other than the pandemic, its health consequences and its economic consequences suffers from the lack of focus that would be deserving under almost any other circumstances.
And so, here we are, in the midst of a pandemic, with an insufficiently clear way forward but determined to move forward. The struggle is to find our way.
Reopening a society safely, and our community in particular, will need a far more robust local response to complement that from the state and federal government. Once again, our responsibilities to our community are far greater than the tools we have to achieve success
We need to support a science-based approach as to when it is safe to reopen our businesses. And our approach to reopening business needs to be a collective one. From the very beginning of the crisis, we have depended on collective action to “flatten the curve,” engaging in cooperative, voluntary social distancing and more recently, wearing masks when going outside and to locations where social distancing is more difficult.
From the very beginning, we have taken the lead from our scientific community and our health care community. We continue to show extraordinary support for them, donating money, essential supplies and food. However, the greatest support to the health care community comes from voluntary compliance with procedures that are proven to work. As we move through this crisis, it becomes more challenging to comply, to fight complacency, to maintain our commitment to see the crisis out.
We are a community with a large percentage of seniors, a larger percentage than a state that has a larger percentage than the national average. We have a concentration of senior nursing facilities, beyond what you might find in other towns. This all presents an additional challenge and responsibility to “work through this together.” Our failure to work together means all of us fail.
While our focus has to be on the health of our community and the resilience of our health system, we naturally turn to the economic conditions of our community, our residents, our businesses and our nonprofit institutions. The demand on our food pantries is one enormous example of community food insecurity despite financial underpinning at the state and federal level. Our business community, so focused on independent business men and women, has significantly less resilience than businesses with national and corporate structure and finances.
The level of failure could be significant and we have responsibility to help, in spite of limited and declining municipal government resources. Our cultural institutions have all strategically engaged in the financial opportunities coming from federal and state sources. Those resources will, in no way, make them whole. Their community events, whenever permitted, will not have the same robust numbers returning in the near future. They will need our community support.
We have long enjoyed a great number of community events in town, many drawing thousands of people. They have provided entertainment for those of us who live here, financial resources for our business and cultural organizations, and attention toward the qualities of our “best cultural scene in America.”
These events may be the last kinds of activities to return to Doylestown and when they do, may be very different than in the recent past. We have a role to play in re-envisioning and reinvigorating these events.
As we continue to fight COVID-19, we need to rededicate ourselves to best health practices and show determination to have a vibrant community on the other side of the crisis. A national testing strategy is central to the conversation as to when we can safely open our town. Comprehensive testing is what will be needed to give people confidence to feel safe enough to resume many of our community routines.
Members of Doylestown Borough Council and I are all volunteers who are committed to making Doylestown an extraordinary community. We did not sign on to a community facing so many challenges at the same time from a terrible health and economic and cultural crisis. Nevertheless, regardless of limited resources, the challenge and responsibility is ours.