By Don Zdeba
The subject of my columns has always focused on water-related issues. However, as I began to write this, the Governor announced a large part of our state would be subjected to another shutdown order that could last through the holidays impacting an array of activities in areas facing critical care shortages. Eleven counties in Southern California and 12 counties in the Central Valley would be required to implement the new restrictions beginning December 4th based on projections of the rising number of patients who have been admitted to intensive care units. As 2020 draws to a close, I think it is important that I go a little off topic in light of what we all have experienced this past year and will very likely continue to experience into 2021.
In addition to the obvious health effects, this pandemic has had a profound effect on so many lives in a number of ways. Locally, we have fared better than other communities in terms of job loss due to the nature of work conducted by our major employers; the Navy base, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, Sierra Sand Unified School District (SSUSD), and Searles Valley Minerals. Nonetheless, this does not diminish the impact on small businesses, hotels, and restaurants which has been significant. Decisions have had to be made to reduce hours, change their business model, and furlough or let workers go. A few unfortunately have had to make the difficult decision to close their doors permanently. The financial impact on some of our friends and neighbors has forced them to make decisions about which bills to pay and what expenses to forego. The impact on our school children also merits mentioning. We can be assured the leadership of SSUSD is doing everything they can within health guidelines to get students back in a safe class environment.
We at Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) have been taking precautions to keep our staff safe by providing masks and hand sanitizer for employees and customers that enter our building, purchasing additional cleaning supplies, restricting access to the administrative offices, conducting all meetings using a web-based application, and practicing appropriate distancing in our customer service area. We sincerely appreciate that our customers are complying with distancing and wearing of masks in our office. Water is one of the 16 Federally recognized Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Thus, it is imperative that we take all necessary steps to avoid exposure to the virus. At the beginning of the pandemic we had to close the office to walk-in traffic and assign much of our office staff to work remotely from home for the better part of a month. Later, a potential exposure outside of the work environment resulted in 11 employees, over one third of our staff, having to be tested for the virus. Once again, we had to close the office to walk-ins.
There is encouraging news about multiple vaccines that have proven effective in testing being made available very soon, if not by the time you read this. Rightfully, the 14 voting members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, along with representatives from federal science agencies and the health care industry, voted the first COVID-19 vaccines should go to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living healthcare workers. It is hoped by summer, the vaccines will be available to the general public.
It is understandable that we are exhausted with this virus and long for a sense of normalcy again. However, we have seen the results of failing to practice the basic recommendations of health experts and the resulting strain on our healthcare industry. Our daughter is a nurse in Los Angeles County so we know very well how the stresses of the job are affecting frontline healthcare workers.
The holidays bring an opportunity for instilling a little joy into what has become a year to forget (or not). I do hope that, even with health guidelines in place, you can find reason to discover a spark of happiness in the wonders this season brings. On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of IWVWD, we wish you safe and happy holidays and we look forward to continuing to serve our community with clean, safe water in 2021 and in years to come.
We are always available by phone at (760)375-5086 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to assist our customers and answer questions or concerns. Also, you can stay engaged in water issues by visiting our Facebook page (IWV Water District) and website, www.iwvwd.com. And if you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to take advantage of the WaterSmart customer portal by logging on to https://iwvwd.watersmart.com/index.php/welcome