Scott Tibbs

County government should be honest about mask mandates

By Scott Tibbs, February 21, 2022

I was a supporter of the county (and state) mask mandate in 2020 and for the first few months of 2021. With vaccines and new therapeutics available, I think it is time to move on from mask mandates. With that said, I could respect our local government's determination to keep the mandate in place if they were honest about the reasoning for it. They have not been honest. Our leaders said in the fall that if COVID-19 case counts go down, the mask mandate would automatically expire.
The new order is set to expire right before midnight on the Wednesday that Monroe County's COVID-19 positive case rate drops to less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents.
Source: The Herald-Times, October 28, 2021.
The incidence rate also remains above the threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 population, below which the local mask mandate automatically will be rescinded.
Source: The Herald-Times, November 8, 2021.
Monroe County’s incidence rate, or the number of new COVID-19 cases per week per 100,000 residents, rose to 123 Wednesday, up 9% from the previous week. The local mask mandate will be rescinded automatically once that number falls below 50
Source: The Herald-Times, November 19, 2021.

Both the Health Department and the County Commissioners knew case counts would not go down over the next few months. They knew case counts would go up, and so did everyone else. Why? Because we were about to enter cold and flu season, where the spread of respiratory viruses is always faster and wider than when the weather is warmer. There is no reason to expect that COVID-19 would behave any differently than our experience with the common cold or influenza over many years.

If they were honest, they would have said this: "We are about to enter cold and flu season, so COVID-19 case counts will also be increasing. Therefore, we are implementing the mask mandate and we will look at possibly repealing it in March or April, but we will not consider doing that until the weather warms up and we are out of traditional cold and flu season."

Instead of doing that, the County Commissioners decided to duck responsibility. They could point to an "objective" standard which they knew was impossible to meet, rather than asserting their authority to protect public health and implement what they consider to be necessary regulations to accomplish that goal. In doing this, they undermined their own authority. This is not how our government should behave.

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