Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw says his resort community “is very much like a ghost town right now.”
In the shadow of a growing number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, an isolation order for all Blaine County residents officially went into effect March 20. Under the order, “gatherings of individuals outside the home” are prohibited with the exception of accessing “essential” needs, such as groceries and health care.
“The streets are deathly quiet,” Bradshaw told Boise State Public Radio. “This has made for people walking and nodding to each other from the other side of the street, on their way to an essential service.”
Morning Edition host George Prentice talks with Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw about this critical moment for a community which is traditionally one of the top tourist attractions in the nation.
“We always knew that we were going to be a community on the front line in the fight against this virus.”
Read the full transcipt below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: On a Monday, it's March 23rd and this is Morning Edition on Boise state public radio news. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. The impact of COVID-19 has already been considerable and in Idaho, that impact has been most tangible in the Wood River Valley. That’s why this morning we turn to Neil Bradshaw. He is the mayor of the City of Ketchum; and he joins us this morning via Skype. Mr. Mayor, good morning.
NEIL BRADSHAW: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me on your show.
PRENTICE: Can you first paint me a word picture of what Ketchum looks like, in a shelter-in- place environment?
BRADSHAW: Look, Ketchum is very much on the front lines in terms of Idaho. It means that we had tourists, we have second homeowners, we had continual flow in and out of the community. We always knew that we were going to be a community on the front lines in terms of fighting this virus. That's why we've had to take an action quickly and often to try and stem this virus.
What it looks like right now is very much like a ghost town. We have an incredible community here. People have really reacted to the guidelines that we've issued, to the measures and the recommendations that we've taken out and communicated to the public. All of this is very encouraging, but it obviously has changed our community 180 degrees. From being a bustling community, a vibrant community, a connected community, we're now one where we're slightly disconnecting from the world. We're disconnecting from encouraging tourism. We're keeping our distance from each other and yet we're trying to support each other at the same time.
The streets are deathly quiet. This has made for people walking and nodding to each other from the other side of the street from the other side of the street, on their way to an essential service. But this has also seen a full circle change in the behavior of our community. I'm very much appreciative of that, and that'll help certainly slow down the virus spread. We've had a a campaign since we started this. We've really talked about how do we slow it down and how do we do our part. But it's all about three things:
- Slow it down. What does that mean? Wash your hands, keep your distance, cover your cough, avoid group gatherings.
- It's about doing your part. What does that mean? That's avoid travel, discourage visitors, shop thoughtfully, be home if you feel sick.
- Then, it's also about just do the right thing. This is shelter in place now. This is do the right thing. Don't expose your friends, your colleagues, your community to any unnecessary risk. That's where the shelter in place comes in.
The other bit that I would emphasize in our wonderful community is acts of kindness. George, what we've seen is the number of wonderful random acts of kindness. People are rallying around, they're contributing money to food banks, to other organizations that can help support the many people who are really going to be suffering over the coming weeks because of the economic downturn that is caused by us changing our personality so quickly and so drastically.
PRENTICE: I'd like to read something that you wrote a few years ago: "There will always be challenges that face our town. But if we are connected, we can face those challenges together. And with empathy, tolerance and understanding, we can find solutions that work for us all."
I'm sensing that, right now we may not be able to face each too closely or connect hand-in-hand; but indeed, our empathy can stretch across the block.
BRADSHAW: We can't be connected by standing next to each other, but we can absolutely stay connected by helping each other out. This emotional empathy and this understanding for each other's plight, really has brought the community together to try and help those less fortunate than ourselves. And I'm seeing acts of that all around the town right now. And of course safety continues to be paramount, safety for our first responders, safety for our city workers, safety for the workers of other businesses around here. That's our primary responsibility. Kudos to all the health workers right now who are really doing a yeoman's job and are protecting our community, but also exposing and putting themselves at risk themselves. That is selfless work, and they've made a huge impact on all of that.
PRENTICE: I would be remiss if I did not mention that you are a citizen of the world. It's my understanding you were born in Zimbabwe, have lived in Kuala Lumpur and Johannesburg, London, New York, San Francisco. And I also have to guess that your heart breaks a bit, a number of those communities.
BRADSHAW: But everyone has this challenge and everyone can share in what works and what doesn't work. But also they're all able to share their success stories as people begin to adjust their lives living in a pandemic. My big concern going forward is really about mental health, about how people cope with this on an emotional basis. The support networks that social media offers is actually really helpful to know that people are not alone. They may be alone in their house, but they're not alone because they're still say connected. I've always talked about physical connection being a great way to build empathy. Well, physical connection is harder right now. We have to keep our distance at least six feet and hopefully more than that. But there is still the connections that happen through a social media outlets, which are being very supportive at this time.
PRENTICE: He is Neil Bradshaw, mayor of the city of Ketchum. Mr. Mayor, a big part of our heart is with the city of Ketchum. Wish you all the best and much safety.
BRADSHAW: Thanks so much, George. Again, we have a wonderful community here and they're up for the challenge. Again, we will get through this and be stronger and wiser for it. I appreciate the chance to share this with your listeners. And I appreciate how NPR is connecting us all - the familiar voice of George Prentice and others on NPR. You bring us all together in a way that's nice and familiar. That familiarity is reassuring at a time when things are so different.
PRENTICE: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
BRADSHAW: Thank you.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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