Planning for the future, when you have no idea what that future looks like or when it starts, is rough. That was the format for last Wednesday’s Mammoth Town Council meeting.
One option of bringing the community back alive was a party, or more specifically, a modified July 4th celebration. The concept presented by Town Manager Dan Holler was like a bright, though undefined, light at the end of a very long tunnel.
As calming as Governor Gavin Newsom’s news conferences are, they are vague. Friday’s session promised answers soon, with the acknowledgement that rural communities are vastly different from metropolitan areas. But all we still know is that some kind of easing of restrictions, regionally, will be coming.
All this with film clips of Southern Californians defying orders not to gather on local beaches. Meanwhile, mountain communities try to deal with physical and economic survival strategies.
The majority of the Town Council’s meeting focused on the Emergency Operations Committee’s update. COVID-19 numbers have held steady and the EOC has begun looking toward recovery, or what will be a phased-in recovery. All the government entities involved in emergency declarations have recognized “back to normal” will come with a vaccine in the next year or more. So what does Mammoth Lakes look like in the interim?
A piece of that puzzle, a July 4th celebration, came from a conversation between Holler and Ted Carlton, publisher of The Sheet. The challenge is developing a format for a celebration that incorporates physical distancing, hand washing and face covering. Hopper’s presentation focused on “decentralized coordinated small group venues.”
The Council liked the idea. “The Fourth would be a big local event,” Councilmember John Wentworth said, “we gotta do something.” Now, it’s up to Town staff to figure out what that something will be.
Both representatives from the EOC and Councilmembers expressed the need to do something to help local businesses. Federal help hasn’t quite reached Mammoth yet. According to Councilmember Lynda Salcido, 47 area business applied to the Small Business Administration for a loan through the federal COVID-19 assistance package and only one business has gotten approval.
The EOC has developed draft recommendations for the reopening and circulated it to the business community for comments. Those comments are being incorporated into the document for presentation at a business community meeting for additional feedback. The document may be on the internet sometime this week.
The biggest hurdle for a tourist economy could be the public’s concern for safety according to EOC head and Mammoth Lakes Fire Chief Fran Frievalt. For folks to head to Mammoth for a 4th of July celebration, they have to have confidence they’re not risking their health.