To the editor:

As I’ve watched our elected officials and public health experts’ response to the Coronavirus, like many of us, I began to examine how it has evolved, and whether they have made informed decisions.

What we’re seeing nationally and locally is typical of some people’s responses, which provide more heat than light.  It occurred to me that I experienced a somewhat analogous, potentially catastrophic event many years ago, which might be helpful during the challenges of this virus.

In June 2002, I was appointed to Woodland Park City Council, and just days later, the Hayman fire broke out, which created panic and fear in our community.  The City Council, along with administrative and emergency management staff met daily at the police station.

We reviewed charts and data which mapped the fire’s path, weather extrapolations which tracked humidity and wind, all of which in support of having to make tough decisions—the most difficult was if and when to evacuate the city.

Unlike most people, elected officials and the experts whose advice they rely on to make hard decisions must do so with incomplete information, in rapidly evolving and largely unpredictable circumstances, and imperfect models.  Paramount in their thinking is public safety.

Now that we have a better picture of this virus, the inevitable cadre of armchair epidemiologists are weighing in with severe criticisms of our elected and public health officials, at all levels.  With the clarity of hindsight, they tell us that certain models were flawed.  They further instruct us on the pros and cons of hydroxychloroquine, though few have “MD” after their names.

What they all have in common is that they’ve checked their humility at the door and brazenly rush in where angels fear to tread.  What I suggest is that we all take a deep breath and recognize that whether it’s our County Commissioners, our governor, or, indeed, our president, they are all mandated by office to make tough decisions with incomplete data and inherently flawed models—it’s the human condition and it hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.

I know what it’s like to be in the challenging position of calling tough shots with the clock ticking, in my case, the threat of a lethal fire breathing down our necks.

Let’s give our elected officials and the experts they depend upon a break.  Omniscience, perfect models, and flawless extrapolations are the purview of the Almighty.  As Shakespeare said, we’re poor players who strut and fret our hour upon the stage.  Let’s agree do so with equal measures of humility and civility.




Phil Mella

Candidate, County Commissioner, District 3