As we ushered in 2021 with a hope for better days, welcome news came through that San Miguel County health officials were moving us to Level Orange, or high risk, on the state dial, an improvement from the severe risk, or Level Red status, of the preceding weeks.

There continues to be work to do, of course, in particular as the holiday spike in cases may yet scupper our hard-earned progress. Still, the move was a positive one that followed weeks of diligence by the community in sticking to the Five Commitments of Containment as we battle our way through the COVID-19 pandemic and this strange, challenging winter.

It wasn’t easy to restrict indoor gatherings and forego many holiday traditions, but we persisted and the indicators seem now to be moving in the right direction.

It’s energizing to see what we can achieve when we work together.

With this in mind, I am also energized by the coming together of the Town of Telluride, Town of Mountain Village and San Miguel County to work with us at the Telluride Tourism Board to forge a new agreement that will inform how we operate and flesh out a shared vision for promoting sustainable tourism in the region.

After preliminary conversations, we at the board look forward to working with the two towns and the county on greater fiscal transparency, guest management and education, supporting the local business community, and more.

These collaborative efforts dovetail well with ongoing efforts at the tourism board to work together within the community, part of a long-running pivot on our part from operating as a destination marketing organization to operating as a destination management organization.

For example, take a quick look at what “orange” means on the dial and you will see that daily occupancy in the lodging sector is now restricted to 60 percent.

The ability of our local public health officials to include this measure is possible because of metrics calculated by the tourism board that in turn give county officials an accurate, up-to-date picture of occupancy of paid accommodations.

It’s just one instance of many where the tourism board has partnered with nonprofits, community leaders and government officials.

Another example? When Noel Night and Holiday Prelude had to be reimagined (and then hastily reimagined yet again in early December), the tourism board’s Annie Carlson stepped in to assist with the development of a microsite — — to permit folks to do their holiday shopping locally, but remotely and safely.

Thanks to this collaborative effort, there was an online hub ready and waiting to connect shoppers with local businesses and causes.

This was the most recent in a number of pandemic-related partnerships.

The tourism board’s Kiera Skinner, for instance, served as a public information officer for San Miguel County at the start of the pandemic. Kiera put her extensive communications knowledge and experience to work, helping public officials disseminate complex, changing information to the wider public.

The tourism board also collaborated with Telluride Arts to develop the creative for the five commitments campaign and launched an education program that sought to educate guests on coronavirus safety protocols and trails etiquette, and developed a Know Before You Go Covid-19 communications document that local entities are using to communicate with guests.

And, tourism board staff continues to provide important support to the Economic Recovery Committee.

Separate from the pandemic, the tourism board has been working with the Town of Telluride Ecology Commission, the Mountain Village Green Team and San Miguel County on Live Like a Local, a campaign aimed at raising awareness among locals and visitors alike of important wildlife- and environmentally friendly local ordinances and practices.

The tourism board has also worked with the Telluride Mountain Club (TMC) on trails clean-up days and highlighting trails etiquette. We are currently collaborating with the TMC on a tag-responsibly campaign to protect our outdoor spaces. The tourism board is donating proceeds from sales of its Telluride calendar to the TMC to fund programming, including trail improvements and new signage.

You don’t need me to tell you that COVID-19 has disrupted everything from headline-grabbers like the economy and professional sports, to communities, families and lives.

Here, though, in our small and wonderful community, I hope we continue to work together to successfully navigate this cruel pandemic — and to use that spirit of collaboration and community to map out the future of sustainable tourism in the region.