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Commissioners fail test of leadership

On Tuesday, Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan asked the Board of Commissioners to issue a public announcement supporting mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing. On Thursday, Jackson County Public Health reported 123 new cases of COVID-19.

Colleen Roberts refused, and Rick Dyer requested more vague wording to say he supports the directives that county officials suggest to slow the spread of COVID-19 — which include wearing masks, distancing and hand-washing.

It is difficult to express in a polite way how ignorant and counterproductive Roberts’ and Dyer’s objections are, but we’ll try.

Jordan explained to the commissioners in a work session that local hospitals are now threatened with being overwhelmed by COVID cases. Jackson and Josephine county combined have 57 adult intensive care beds. On Tuesday, 41 were occupied.

Roberts’ response to Jordan’s plea for some leadership was to question whether the case spike was because people are repeatedly contracting the disease. It’s not. Every one of those 123 people contracted the virus for the first time — along with the 445 who tested positive since last Wednesday. Who knows how many cases will be reported today?

Roberts also said wearing a mask should be a personal responsibility, not a government mandate, and suggested a “positive message” telling people to take vitamins to boost their immune systems.

Those statements would be laughable if they were not so dangerously irresponsible.

If taking vitamins worked as well as wearing a mask, social distancing and hand-washing, public health officials would be recommending that instead.

Roberts and Dyer express concern about the negative effects of coronavirus restrictions on businesses and individuals. Dyer has been especially troubled by the lack of school sports. Those are valid concerns.

But how many times does it need to be explained that mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing — along with avoiding social gatherings — are the only way to control the spread of the virus so those activities can continue? How can elected officials who want businesses to stay open and youths to return to the playing fields refuse to publicly support the very measures that will help accomplish that?

Dyer said he supports the efforts of county staff who are battling the virus, and would be willing to say that in a public statement. But not, apparently, to specifically support the measures that would make those staff members’ jobs easier and just maybe save some lives in the process.

Commissioner Bob Strosser, who is leaving office in January, said he and his colleagues should lead by example and support both county staff and safety measures. If Roberts and Dyer aren’t willing to demonstrate that leadership, Strosser should do it without them. His successor, Commissioner-elect Dave Dotterrer, should join him.

Strosser noted that the pandemic has been politicized across the country rather than treated as the public health issue it is. He’s right.

Roberts and Dyer need to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.

Clarification: This editorial has been changed to reflect that Commissioner Rick Dyer's statements at the Jackson County Commissioners Nov. 10 meeting.