Strongly Discouraging Travel



April 10, 2020

elaine-belvinWe realized Sedona was the first Arizona city to strongly discourage travel when statewide media responded immediately to our March 30 announcement, recognizing it as something new.  Within 24 hours, Mayor Moriarty and I were interviewed for news programs on Channels 3 and 5 in Phoenix.

Many others could have been interviewed that day, because so many people were involved in the decision.  Regional collaboration and unity have been extraordinary during this crisis, an important story.

From first-hand knowledge, I can tell you county health departments, city elected officials and managers, health care providers, first responders, social service agencies, nonprofits, local colleges and financial institutions, our congressional representatives, business groups and others have been in daily contact – sharing information, taking action and developing policy as the crisis quickly grew more complex. The underlying vibe has been, “We are in this together and must rely on each other now and in the months ahead. Are you ready?”

Such extensive coordination is essential.  Leaders had to weigh many questions:  What must be done urgently? Do we have enough information?  Are we considering all aspects? What is the message from Washington and from the Governor?  What do individual mayors think?  Is the advice from health professionals consistent? Are workers gaining in their ability to survive extended unemployment?   The answers were – and are – occasionally hard to pin down, but Sedona leaders managed ambiguity well and stayed patient in deciding to discourage travel for now.

Emergency leadership requires more than swift action. There is a fine line between being decisive and being rash. The critical role of timing comes into play again and again, but not in the way one might expect. A well-honed sense of timing tells leaders when to resist being stampeded, and when the moment has come to move decisively.  Restraint and action live side by side. The decisive moment usually arrives when enough accurate information enables a broad consensus.

I believe we were the first Arizona city to discourage visitation because we were ready – the timing was right. We had been moving toward an announcement for days, looking at data, consulting broadly, strengthening our message each day as consensus emerged. We monitored the governor, Congress, the White House and the CDC.  On March 29 we attained critical mass; regional leadership at all levels supported a no-travel message from Sedona, and Congress had completed a $2.2 trillion aid package. We made the announcement Monday, March 30, the same day as Governor Ducey’s order encouraging restricted travel.

Sadly, the cooperation we are witnessing is in the service of a very unhappy story. Thousands of Sedonans are unemployed.  Businesses are shuttered, many permanently.  Schools are closed.  People are worried about their health and the safety of their loved ones. We do not know when this will end.  But as Sedonans rally to help each other, we can be assured that local and regional leadership is acting together, deliberately and decisively.

The coronavirus may be showing us that we have always been united and that our differences melt away in the face of a common danger. When the crisis has passed, I have faith we will rebound together, stronger and more confident in our strength and purpose.

                                                                                                                    –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO