In county battle with COVID, divided we fall

Remember that unwritten social contract that binds a community and protects the common good? Remember how when disaster strikes, neighbors; even folks all across the country; rally to help each other?

What happened? How is wearing a mask in a public place such a hardship that it can’t be considered as an act of common courtesy and concern for the people around us? How indoctrinated does one have to be to believe being asked to do that is tyranny? The would-be tyrants are the ones that are doing this brainwashing.

We have accepted a long list of legal restrictions on our individual behaviors and realized their benefit, all intended to protect public health and the common good, some of the most obvious being on smoking, liquor sales to minors, seat belts, and speed limits.

Wearing masks in public follows along the same lines and combined with other COVID guidelines has been scientifically proven to help protect us, slow the spread of the virus, and save lives. Why should this be different?

The United States has one of the highest rates of COVID hospitalizations and deaths. Numbers that have risen so high after two years we are becoming numb to the statistics. With easy access to preventative measures, why so many victims?

With so many being misled to distrust the vaccine, to believe that masks don’t work, and therefore to refuse to use them, it is no wonder we can’t get this virus under control. The reason that vaccines and masks may not be as effective as they should be is precisely the fault of those who make those claims, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Blaming Gov. Kathy Hochul because she had to resort to a mandate. Really? Do they realize that she is a Western New York native and the reason our area has gotten the attention from Albany that it has? Evoking the words of Dr. Martin Luther King in defense of what they think they are proving. Seriously?

This does not remotely resemble Dr. King’s civil disobedience. He explained that an unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority not binding on itself.

King accepted the penalty of the law he was objecting to and spent time in jail. He did not advocate law-breaking and said it would lead to anarchy. Other excuses that came up at the recent Chautauqua County Legislature meeting: focusing on a healthy lifestyle instead (which is good but won’t keep the virus away), trusting God to protect us (why would a creator give us a brain and a conscience if we weren’t expected to use them), or having a breathing problem that makes mask wearing uncomfortable (breathing on a ventilator would be much more uncomfortable).

In January’s meeting of the County Legislature, a motion by Legislator Susan Parker had been proposed, requesting the Legislature support the county Department of Health and Human Services recommendations for lifesaving COVID protection measures, in an effort to show a unified leadership. The articles of the motion followed those guidelines. The motion, to simply support the county’s own Department of Health, received no Republican signers. It is hard to find a reason to refuse this support, other than partisanship and cowering to the extreme anti-vax, anti-maskers.

Members of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Women’s and Men’s Action Group, CCWAG, a politically progressive organization, signed and submitted a letter to the Legislature which was read at the meeting. Their message advocated for “the current life-saving recommendations of the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, the County Board of Health, and the state Department of Health,” which “highly recommend that people get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, wear masks indoors of public areas and businesses and test when there are concerns.” Their letter went on to state, “All county departments have a responsibility to support the required public measures of the Department of Health and Human Services. Legislators, county executive and county sheriff: No one is exempt from following laws to include Public Health Laws and Gov. Hochul’s mandate. … None of us can just follow and abide by laws and mandates of our choosing. … You cannot have it both ways – asking our Health Department to do the nearly impossible while at the same time undercutting the Department and everyone who is abiding by its recommendations.” Barbara Colt, who read the letter, as a veteran of military service added how important leadership can be. She said, “A leader can keep their troops cohesive or disjointed. And rogue soldiers can get an entire platoon killed.”

How about dismissing those far-fetched contrived impressions of liberty and becoming responsible! Drop the politics. Practice simple good sense and concern for others, stop making excuses and follow the COVID public health guidelines so we can get past, at long last, this plague.

Take advantage of the aids we have available now. Go online to covidtests.gov and receive four at-home tests for free from the U.S. government delivered via USPS. A test site opened just recently in Jewett Hall at SUNY Fredonia, from 8:30 am. to 4 p.m. Vaccinations are available consistently at local pharmacies, and they will be receiving distributions of N95 masks free to customers. The COVID dead cannot speak to tell us what they would have, in many cases, done differently. But can’t we, in their memory, learn from them anyway?

February is Black History month. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” The Civil War is an integral part of Black history. I’m reminded of the Battle of Gettysburg. Freedom and rights should be fought for, that is our democracy.

However, fighting COVID is not the battlefield that we want to fight on. The confederates left massive casualties on that battlefield, taking with them massive casualties on the union side. There are other battlefields less deadly to fight on. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, protect each other.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident.


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