Petition county to act now to curb COVID-19
Ignoring advise from their own health department administrator and from coroner and medical consultant Don Hodson, who accused them of paying politics with what he said should have been a health matter, county commissioners Monday voted 3-2 to reject requiring masks. Two commissioners who were wearing masks at the meeting — Dave Crofoot and Randy Dallke — favored the mandate. Kent Becker, Jonah Gehring, Dianne Novak — none of whom wore masks during the meeting — were opposed. Details in Wednesday's print editions.
All politics aside, it’s time for Marion County officials to fulfill their obligation to protect the public by adopting serious measures to reduce the unprecedented spread of COVID-19.
After months of failing to face reality, we have now reached a tipping point. Infection rates are soaring to record levels, and area hospitals no longer have capacity sufficient to continue heroic efforts to limit the death toll from the disease.
The alternative to acting swiftly and decisively will be uncounted deaths and eventually another total shutdown that will kill many businesses and leave huge numbers of residents unemployed.
The bare minimum the county must do at this point is require all residents to wear face coverings anytime they appear within six feet of others in public, indoors or outdoors, except when those involved all reside in the same household or when there are medically documented reasons that an individual would suffer health consequences from wearing a mask.
This cannot be voluntary. It is both unfair and impractical to put businesses in the position of having to turn away customers if they do not comply. Any mask mandate must include non-trivial penalties for violation after an initial warning, and police and sheriff’s deputies must be instructed to enforce the requirement vigorously.
The county also must ban all non-essential organized activities, including parades, concerts, plays, sales events, sports events, and in-person classes unless all participants have been tested immediately in advance and full safety precautions are applied. The only exception would be for events the primary purpose of which is for residents to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms of religion or speech.
Legislation is already on the books allowing the county to impose such restrictions. There is no need for lengthy study, drafting, or pondering — tactics that merely stall implementation. Commissioners should remain in session Monday for as long as it takes for them to adopt public health directives that will be effective immediately and continue in force until the end of the year or until canceled by subsequent vote.
If you agree and are a Marion County resident or business person, type your name and town below, along with any comment, then click "Submit." This information will be delivered to commissioners at the start of their meeting Monday.
— Eric Meyer
Last modified Nov. 17, 2020