Our opinion: Independence council right to reject COVID gambit

The Examiner

Common sense prevailed when the Independence City Council voted 4-2 Monday against urging Jackson County to dilute or drop measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As first presented, the resolution held out the possibility of taking the county to court.

The community does not need more of that. Fortunately, Monday’s discussion wasted a little council time but no taxpayer money.

Fundamentally, the challenge of this pandemic is not complicated. Mayor Eileen Weir, acknowledging the toll on the community, put it well in a video posted over the weekend in which she stated her opposition to the council resolution. 

“All medical professionals agree that wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding large gatherings is the best defense against COVID-19,” she said. “Like you, I am tired, and I am worried, but we cannot let our guard down now.”

Given the absence of clear direction or meaningful action from Washington or Jefferson City, communities and individuals have to do what they can. Individuals have to take basic precautions while bearing in mind the maddening reality that many, many others refuse to do so. Communities, bearing in mind that large gatherings are not a good idea, have to weigh the acceptable costs as measured in the spread of disease. What are reasonable limits on gatherings inside businesses? Leaders also have to consider what people will stand for and what they’ll simply reject. As the mayor said, it's a conversation that needs to continue.

Eastern Jackson County, like the rest of Missouri, has been in the red zone for weeks. Hospitalizations are up, and people continue to die. Fall is here, and the predicted nationwide worsening of the pandemic is upon us. This isn’t going away soon, a fact that has been plain from the beginning. 

One cause for hope is that better tools are on the way.

Truman Medical Centers says it’s getting ready to roll out a saliva test for COVID-19, potentially meaning a significant expansion of testing capacity with quick results. Frequent delays in getting results back continue to hamper the fight.

Also, Jackson County continues to ramp up its capacity for contact tracing. The importance of contact tracing bears repeating: Identify the person with the illness. Identify those who have been in recent close contact with that person, and get those people to quarantine themselves. This is a long-proven tool to isolate and help control infectious disease.

COVID fatigue – the masks, the reminders that it’s best to stay home, the infuriating need to rethink and rearrange a hundred things a day – is a real thing. 

But it’s not the main thing. COVID is the main thing, and it’s in the driver’s seat. We have to be strong and resilient, and we have to work with the tools we have.