Brower: Coronavirus highlights the value of Grand County’s natural isolation |

Brower: Coronavirus highlights the value of Grand County’s natural isolation

Patrick Brower

The handwringing over the coronavirus has real impacts on international, national and perhaps even local economies, like our economy right here in Grand County.

Since I’m in the economic development field here in Grand County, working with people wanting to start or expand businesses, I thought it might be a good idea to ponder the good sides and the bad sides of this likely coronavirus pandemic.

For starters, this isn’t the first time pandemic fears have had impacts in Grand County. Back in the days of one of those extremely virulent flu outbreaks in the states about 20 years ago, serious thought was given locally to what we could do about it.

The idea of our local sheriff and others was, first and foremost, head ’em off at the pass. That is, quarantine the entire county. That’s not so hard for us up here in Middle Park, where there are only four ways in and out of the county by car — Berthoud Pass, Willow Creek Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass (and Muddy Pass right there), and the Blue River accesses (Highway 9 or its short-cut, Ute Pass by the Henderson Mill). We don’t have a major airport, which is the main source of the virus’s spread.

What would it take? Two law enforcement officers at each entry with gates and guns and we would effectively be quarantined so that no one infected with the virus could get in. Okay…

But that also means that no tourists, food truck drivers, or other travellers could get in either. And real locals caught on the other side of this blockade couldn’t get in either. We would truly be isolated, and probably starving.

That would kill our tourist economy for the duration of the closures and greatly hamper our abilities to live normal lives here in the Island in the Rockies.

And remember, this sort of a blockade would not allow any of us to get out of the county either. Trips to Costco and jaunts to hospitals for major medical emergencies would be out of the question as we wouldn’t want to be heading down into the germ-infested Front Range or other virus-exposed environs.

Hmmm. Maybe a self-quarantine of Grand County isn’t such a great idea after all. It would certainly kill our economy and force us to eat only foods air-dropped in by choppers and military aircraft. Eating MREs for breakfast, lunch and dinner doesn’t sound so appetizing.

Just because it would be easy for us to have an effective quarantined closure of the entire county doesn’t mean we should.

But I’m not optimistic about statewide and national efforts to get this under control as the “experts” are suggesting that it’s inevitable that this virus (health expert Rush Limbaugh referred to it as nothing more than a bad cold) will spread.

But since we are so naturally isolated it might take a long time to get here. That would give us ammunition for entrepreneurial marketing slogans. Our chambers of commerce should get right on this one: “We DON’T HAVE the coronavirus (yet)!”

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching to anyone wanting to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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