Paul Tuss - Executive Director

The dog days of summer are upon us, school will be starting soon and our days will begin getting shorter and chillier. It’s hard to believe that fall is less than six weeks away. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year and I feel fortunate to live in a place that has four distinct seasons. 

While the seasons will be changing, one thing that has unfortunately remained constant is the ongoing global pandemic associated with COVID-19. The difficulties we all experienced over the past year-and-a-half is unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetimes. We have lost friends and loved ones, experienced serious illness ourselves or know someone who was sick and are all-too-familiar with the impact of COVID on our education system and our economy. 

Too many of us, including myself, took for granted this spring and summer that the pandemic was in the rear-view mirror and that life was going to quickly get back to normal, or as normal as possible. Unfortunately, we now know that wasn’t to be, COVID is still very much with us, and the Delta variant is wreaking havoc worldwide, including here in Montana. 

At times defeating COVID-19 seems nearly impossible because of its global reach, the variants that have developed and the non-discriminatory way in which it has negatively impacted our communities, our livelihoods, our families and Main Street. However, we know there is indeed something we can all do to help eradicate this disease and help assure we won’t be sliding backwards into another round of travel restrictions, mask wearing, business closures, event cancellations and economic disaster. 

That something is getting vaccinated. 

Why get vaccinated?  Because it works. Recent data indicates that over 98 percent of deaths due to COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated and the Centers for Disease Control has said that vaccines are 94 percent effective against hospitalization due to the virus. In Montana, our current rate of fully vaccinated individuals is just over 48 percent among those residents eligible to receive the vaccination. This ranks us 35th among all states. There is much room for improvement, and we can do better. 

We are fortunate that vaccines are widely available throughout Montana at locations that include pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and county health departments. Getting vaccinated, and encouraging others to do so, will help assure that our economy remains open for business, that school children can enjoy the benefits of in-person learning and that our communities will remain great places to live, work, build a business and invest. 

(Editor’s Note: Paul Tuss is the Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, a federally-recognized Economic Devel-opment District in northern Montana and Past President of the Montana Economic Developers Association.

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