Level of distrust in Garrett County at all-time high

Garrett County has bigger problems than rising COVID-19 cases. The level of distrust between citizens and leadership is at an all time high.

As COVID cases rise, locals are told to stay home and forfeit gatherings, including those for Thanksgiving. However, in the next breath, they are told that tourism has no measurable effect on COVID cases. Not surprisingly, local residents aren’t buying it.

There might be some trust if public officials didn’t have a record of dishonestly in Garrett County. During the fracking debate of years past, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce claimed in a letter to state officials that their entire membership supported fracking. Infamously, that was entirely untrue. The area has a history of doing whatever it takes to protect the almighty dollar, when that dollar benefits a handful of wealthy businesses.

It leaves residents wondering if this winter we will be asked to sacrifice while out-of-area tourists roam free, served by a population of locals both economically and mentally weakened by the toll of the pandemic. Right now, teachers are asked to avoid gatherings and the public, even though the county felt it all right to fill their classrooms with students who had attended the large sporting events the board sanctioned. As cases rise, will Wisp Resort be free to open unrestricted, further spreading this virus among our population?

Are difficulties getting tested manufactured in an attempt to lower public perception of the pandemics severity here in order to court out-of-area visitors? Do we not have daily drive-thru testing and popup COVID tents because they make visitors uneasy?

Our local health department doesn’t report COVID cases from out-of-area visitors, therefore we don’t know the real cost of tourism amid a pandemic. Yet most residents are skeptical that tourism had no measurable effect. Once public trust in health officials has eroded, convincing locals to follow guidelines that tourists are immune too becomes impossible.

Jeremy J. Gosnell

Oakland

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