BIG SKY – To kick off EBS virtual Town Hall on May 11, EBS publisher Eric Ladd shared a reflection: “As this platform has gained momentum in the tens of thousands of viewers, we’ve understood and embraced the importance of words like community, communication and perspective.” The seventh installment of the weekly meetings was no exception.
For a wide breadth of perspective, panelists addressed the audience from a number of locations, from Washington D.C. to one of Big sky’s local liquor stores. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester followed in the footsteps of other Montana government officials in headlining the meeting. Tester was joined on the virtual stage by Gallatin-City County Health Department Health Officer Matt Kelley, Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center Director of Clinical Services and Operations Taylor Rose, The Rocks Tasting Room and Liquor Store owner Kara Blodgett and The Consignment Cabin owners Kerri and Kevin Fabozzi.
While all panelists touched on the overwhelming uncertainty of day-to-day and long-term conditions of the pandemic, each looked to different kinds of communication as an antidote for the unknown. Sen. Tester said that while President Donald Trump has gone on record once again stating that “if somebody wants to be tested right now, they’ll be able to be tested,” he wanted to clarify the falsity of that statement, sharing that he himself was unable to get a test without symptoms or known contact with a confirmed case.
The senator also stressed the importance of his legislative issues of interest such as a veteran mental health bill and regulations for the meat packing industry that are especially relevant now and would benefit from the opportunity to be heard on the Senate floor.
Closing in on the local communities of Gallatin County, Rose and Kelley provided updates on health and safety. Kelley said that the county health board will meet early on May 13 to determine if the county reopening plan should adjust to align directly with Gov. Steve Bullock’s “Phase 1.5” plan, which allows for the reopening of gyms and some theaters. Kelley said the county has a lot of authority when it comes to these decisions and they can choose to be more stringent than the state, but not less.
Rose said that he continues to receive calls from a number of community members reaching out to see how they can help. As a result of the massive support that has been extended to BHBSMC, Rose reported that the construction of four additional rooms has been completed, bolstering the facility’s ability to respond to any future surges. Rose also reported that communication with the West Yellowstone Medical Clinic has been essential in preparing for Yellowstone National Park’s assumed future opening, which could potentially strain West Yellowstone’s medical facilities an undue amount.
In a room stocked with Montana liquor bottles, EBS Editor-in-Chief and Town Hall moderator Joseph T. O’Connor chatted with Blodgett about the triumphs and struggles of running a local business during this time. Blodgett said that being able to operate the liquor store over the last few weeks, a service deemed essential, combined with to-go food orders allowed The Rocks to stay afloat, and she echoed other panelist’s gratitude for the Big Sky community’s support.
The Fabozzis, who have owned the Consignment Cabin since 2015, performed a live rendition of the online marketing tactic they’ve been employing, where the couple creatively showcases an item for sale in a personable and often humorous video. They also had the unique opportunity as local business owners to address key decision makers like Tester and Kelley, requesting more clear and definitive communication.
Sen. Tester stressed the fluid nature of the pandemic and candidly expressed his own uncertainties with how to handle such an immense challenge. “Make no mistake about it,” he said. “As policy makers and as businesspeople or as government officials … Mother Nature always bats last on this deal. The virus is going to do what the virus is going to do, we just need to try and adapt to keep ourselves safe.”
The meeting was concluded by a musical performance by Kevin Fabozzi, strumming and singing from his Consignment Cabin perch. His song of choice, “Hard Times” by Chris Hillman, seemed to offer promise in their apropos lyrics: “Hard times can’t hold us down forever… There will be a better day.”