The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health issue, but because “public” means all of us and not merely some, the pandemic’s ramifications affect the entire community.
Inevitably, those measures required to deal with a public health crisis of this magnitude must emanate from government as the only conceivable arbiter of the maximum protection for all citizens, not just some.
Yes, I know; public health has become political during the pandemic.
Of course it has.
Politics is the art and practice of defining power, accumulating power and distributing power. This power is required to make sense of coordinated responses to the pandemic, and we have seen a variety of examples as how it is to be used, or not used, in this escalating situation.
There is a consensus among those trained to consider such matters that masks, while imperfect, are one simple way of restricting the transmission of the coronavirus, along with proper hygiene and social distancing.
Is simple persuasion enough to increase the proportion of purported adults wearing masks, or is something more required?
Unfortunately, no, not alone, although persuasion ultimately is best.
It is my position that New Albany’s civic power structure — ideally bipartisan, but we’ll take progress any way we can — must extract political capital from its seldom-opened wallet and spend it now, when it matters most, in an effort to mandate what simple persuasion doesn’t seem to be achieving.
Democrats control the executive and legislative branches of government in New Albany, with a mayor and five council persons. That’s a veto-proof majority. Democratic party power in the city is at its highest level in my lifetime.
From the redevelopment commission down to the newest employee at the street department, the vast majority of appointments and sinecures have been the result of Democratic Party patronage. None of the elected officials will be seeking re-election until 2023, and the mayor’s success last year in achieving a third consecutive term while increasing his margin of victory gives him a level of power that approaches the zenith of what’s ever been witnessed in this city.
Isn’t it time to use some of this power?
If this power isn’t to be deployed as a means of alleviating risk even to a small degree during the public health crisis of an unprecedented pandemic, when exactly is the right time to consider deploying it?
Concurrently, resolutions are piffle. Anything is better than nothing, and in our form of municipal governance, city council resolutions count for nothing, perhaps even less than nothing.
They’re mere statements of intent, required here and there for legal reasons, but otherwise toothless. The coronavirus can be counted upon not to read whatever toothless resolutions this or any other city council authors.
Democrats — c’mon, really? In political terms, this is a gift. It cannot be about waiting on a Republican governor to mandate masks statewide. It needs to be about illustrating what must be done statewide, doing it locally, and making a head start in our own city.
You have the council votes. Wait … you DO have the council votes, don’t you?
Please tell me that the Democratic Party is united on the topic of a rational, sensible response to a public health crisis, especially when the irrational, insensible response by the Trumpians is final verification of the GOP’s fondness for death cults.
Talk of a resolution has been an understandable trial balloon, and a reconnoitering of the perimeter. Good work. Now ditch it, and let’s get the ordinance we need for the problem we have — and yes — undertake to enforce it.
Even if the enforcement is ineffectual, when it comes to a pandemic something is better than nothing in terms of a response. You can do this. Really.
Here’s an article from today’s IndyStar, detailing the ways we’re losing ground to the coronavirus statewide.
… One interim measure many public health experts would like to see is a statewide mask mandate.
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Four counties, including Marion, and two cities already have put such a measure in place. Increasingly evidence has shown that masks may help prevent the spread of the virus, just as data once attested to the wisdom of wearing a seat belt.
Many other states, including some led by Republican governors, already have taken this step. Two weeks ago Holcomb said he believed that Hoosiers would do the right thing, so rather than mandating masks, he unveiled a public service awareness campaign #MaskUpHoosiers, which encourages them to do so.
But many public health experts say they support a stronger message.
“A lot of times these public health mandates are needed,” said Shandy Dearth, director of the undergraduate epidemiology program at Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health. “Now is really the time to take more public health action to keep those numbers lower so we don’t have a strain on the public health system.”