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Commissioners' letter doesn't change reality

It’s understandable that Jackson County commissioners are frustrated by state-imposed restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, but joining other counties in a letter beseeching Gov. Kate Brown to impose no additional restrictions is an empty gesture. What’s more, it makes a claim that is not supported by the facts, and promotes the notion that local residents have no control over restrictions imposed by the governor.

Drafted in Coos County, the letter was intended to be signed by commissioners from Curry, Josephine and Douglas counties as well.

“This is truly a situation where one size does not fit all, and our citizens and businesses should not be further restricted when they are doing everything that they have been asked to do to slow the spread,” the letter said.

While it’s true that some counties have been more successful than others in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, it is demonstrably not true that local residents are “doing everything they are being asked to do.”

A group of about 50 people held a “we will not comply” anti-mask rally in Vogel Plaza last week, in defiance of the governor’s order requiring face coverings in all indoor public spaces and outdoors when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. Jackson County public health officials said Monday that social gatherings, including graduation parties, have led to a surge in new cases since the Fourth of July weekend, because some people are behaving as they did before the pandemic hit.

That’s not doing everything we’ve been asked to do. Not only that, but questioning the legitimacy of public health orders feeds the false narrative that if only Brown stopped imposing restrictions everything would go back to normal.

Brown is not imposing restrictions because she wants to, but because residents were not voluntarily complying with requests to wear masks in grocery stores and other public places and practice social distancing. The level of compliance has increased dramatically since the governor’s latest order was issued. But so has the number of new cases.

Additional requirements — which the commissioners’ letter seeks to prevent — will be imposed only if cases increase too quickly because people refuse to comply with the restrictions already in place.

In other words, it’s up to all of us to prevent new restrictions. Jackson County is still in phase two reopening. We can stay there only if we all cooperate.