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Cook County couple navigate careers, family life amid COVID-19 pandemic

On many levels, Cook County residents Kate and Steve Surbaugh had every reason to believe 2020 was going to be an ideal year.

Kate is the CEO of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, a local healthcare facility in Grand Marais. Steve, meanwhile, is the co-owner of Cascade Vacation Rentals, the largest and perhaps most recognizable operator of short-term vacation rentals on the North Shore.

In late 2019, Kate had recently been appointed CEO of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. For Steve’s business, many thousands of tourists visit the North Shore and Cook County every year, with short-term rentals continuing their rise as a popular option for vacationing families and groups visiting the region.

And then COVID-19 hit. Operations changed at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, but by no means did Kate’s job slow down. Cascade Vacation rentals, however, shut down operations all together. Suddenly the Surbaughs found themselves on opposite ends of how their careers were navigating the unexplored terrain of the pandemic.

In one sense, Kate and Steve are the embodiment of a discussion and question that Cook County has been facing for months: how to navigate between the sometimes opposing forces of community health and the health of the local economy.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs explores this story in the audio feature posted below.