Commentary: For Cordova, prevention is better than treatment

By Anna Laird
For The Cordova Times

In recent weeks, leaders across the globe — from presidents and prime ministers, to state governors and town mayors — have been faced with decisions regarding COVID-19. The town officials of Cordova are no exception. I can imagine it is an overwhelming situation; the recent article in The Cordova Times certainly spoke to the hours being put into planning and organization, showing that the town officials have a deep commitment to the town and to their duty.

However, I would like to implore the town officials to remember that prevention is the best possible way to combat this disease. Even if we could build a fully functioning hospital in the next week with ventilators and its own HVAC, prevention would still be the best method.

It is the moral responsibility of town officials to minimize the death rate. If it is possible to take action that will reduce potential deaths, and to lower risk, then they must do so. I imagine that the town officials are grappling with many issues, such as fears of future bankruptcy and lawsuits. Bankruptcy and financial loss are devastating, but losing family and friends is more so. Possible monetary advantage is never more important than the lives of people.

An article in The Cordova Times today quoted a letter from CCMC Medical Director Dr. Hannah Sanders. The letter talked about a worse-case scenario which could potentially lead to over 500 deaths. Yes, this is a worst-case scenario, and may not happen. However, the town officials have to understand that even numbers far, far less than that would be inexcusable to not try and prevent.

Ten deaths, 50 deaths, 100 deaths: that would be worth shutting down the town and potentially the fishing season to prevent. Think of 10 people you know, a hundred people you know. Would you have them die, to save yourself a lawsuit? What is the value of a life? Yes, fishing is always a dangerous profession. But every man and woman who works in the industry makes a choice to put themselves at risk. Keeping the town open will put people at risk who cannot make a choice. There is a world of difference between dying in a high-risk profession and dying a slow, agonizing death because you went to the grocery store.


I am not going to suggest technical specifics of how to partially or completely shut down Cordova, as I am hardly qualified to do so. However, plenty of others in this community have already made suggestions, and I urge the town officials to consider these suggestions or create their own plan for shut down.

Please consider two examples, which although are on a substantially larger scale, clearly show the advantages of large scale shut down. The first is the United Kingdom. For weeks, the government made no move to shut down the nation, saying that they would “Keep Calm and Carry On” in classic British fashion. The second example is Japan. Japan issued a complete shutdown of the nation back in February. There have been 7,000 deaths in the United Kingdom as of today, and 93 in Japan, despite the fact Japan has twice the population. Which example should our officials follow?

Dillingham, in Bristol Bay, is in a very similar situation to Cordova. They are also expecting a significant influx of people when the fishing season begins. Dillingham has been urging the government to close their fishery, so their citizens will not be at risk. Why should Cordovans carry on? The rest of the nation and a large part of the globe is shut down, why not us? The governor classified fishing as an essential industry, but it is arguably not essential. Long time Cordova fisherman Paul Swartzbart put it far better than I possibly could: “Other ‘essential industry’ workers have access to real medical care, we don’t. Copper river reds are a luxury item that only wealthy people can afford. They do not qualify as essential infrastructure.” Cordovans should not be made to face COVID-19 if we do not have to.

As I said before, I imagine the town officials are under a tremendous amount of stress, and I have sympathy and respect for them. However, it is time to slam on the brakes, and put some hard rules in place, no matter what the financial implications may be down the line. We don’t need a permanent change. We only need a four-week plan, a six-week plan, so we can stop and reassess. We are talking about human lives. The town officials know the risk. They know the numbers. It is their duty and moral responsibility to protect us.

I beg them to do so.

Anna Laird is a senior at Cordova Jr./Sr. High School.