Being a community leader has never been easy, and couple that with the difficult decisions being made regarding public health issues related to the pandemic, boards and councils have found their decisions at the forefront of today’s news.
The Savage Pacer reported a couple weeks ago on the Savage City Council policy decision to require city employees who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks inside city offices during periods of high community transmission. At issue is not only the health and safety of employees and residents, but also the continuity of business and operations, as evident from other news around the country.
Take this headline reported by the Belleville, Illinois News-Democrat newspaper on Aug. 19, “COVID-19 outbreak forces entire southwest Illinois police department to shut down.” The mayor of that town had to scramble to find adequate protection for the community while the entire force was in quarantine or recovering from COVID-19.
Or this headline from KWTX.com on Aug. 5, “Central Texas’ largest county changes COVID-19 threat level; 18 city workers are quarantining.” The latter example is from the town of Killeen, in Bell County, Texas, where many of its city operations were impacted greatly by COVID-19. The news article reported that in the 16 central Texas counties that KWTX monitors, 37% of residents 12 and older were fully vaccinated.
What’s shocking to me as a consumer of news is the backlash boards and council members, teachers, store managers and others receive as a result of decisions they have had to make as a result of the pandemic. Somehow the same people who follow public school vaccination requirements, speed limits, seat belt laws, park curfew rules and wear personal protective equipment like hard hats or safety vests for a job, believe that public health experts and doctors and nurses are lying when they inform about communicable infectious diseases and transmission.
While people are yelling at officials about mask mandates and vaccinations or other public health initiatives, I’ve been grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to go places and do things as the pandemic wears on. Wearing a mask might be inconvenient, but it’s not the end of the world.
Each one of us has difficult situations that pop up every day as part of a job. Board and council members know that while the entire globe is immersed in a pandemic, the decisions they make for their respective organizations could cost another person their life.
According to a news report from KXXV.com a couple weeks ago, in Waco, (60 miles away from the previous mentioned town of Killeen) students and staff at Connally Junior High School learned that not one, but two social studies teachers had both died from COVID-19. School officials there called this loss a “complex or compound trauma” for the students who had only been in school for a week and a half.
While other areas of the country have struggled to get buy-in for the vaccine, thumbs up to the 71.7% of all individuals 16-and-over in Minnesota and 76.5% in Scott County who have rolled up their sleeves and helped slow the spread.
I’m reassured by the decisions local leaders are making for not only the health and wellness of our community, but also for the continuity of our city services, area schools and businesses. I wish them well as they navigate through more unchartered decision-making around public health.