OPINION

Needlessly exposed in a moment of challenge

The Examiner

We are in yet another wave of COVID-19, and as a matter of public policy we are unarmed. We are on our own in a pandemic that even by official counts has killed more than 800,000 Americans, including more than 16,000 Missourians. 

A crisis is a test, and we have been found wanting. 

The idea that a pandemic can be stopped through “personal responsibility” – a favorite phrase of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and other politicians throughout the pandemic – is a cruel joke. This has left everyone at the mercy of the least responsible. Those acting responsibly are the ones continuing to pay the price. They deserve to know that their government has their backs. It does not. They are the ones whose freedoms continue to be limited while others refuse to acknowledge that the price of freedom includes responsible action and let this pandemic drag on and on. 

Parson simply lacks the temperament to face a crisis head on and make tough or unpopular decisions. He has downplayed the pandemic from the start, never considering so much as a mask mandate even in 2020 – before vaccines – or other measures that could have greatly slowed the pandemic. 

His ludicrous decision last week to end Missouri's pandemic state of emergency is in keeping with his head-in-the-sand approach, It leaves hospitals with less staffing flexibility while beds are full and health-care providers are brutally overstretched. Those workers also deserve to know that someone has their backs. 

It’s no small thing that the governor did this as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state were at their highest point in 2021. His decision flies in the face of the facts, again. 

Yet Parson is only part of the problem. The Missouri General Assembly convenes this week, with ideas on how to further undermine public health. In other words, undermining efforts to control the spread of disease and death. 

Last year, state legislators put public health orders directly in the hands of elected officials, with predictable and deadly results. What elected official has the courage to stand up to the rage over masks? Missouri legislators should reverse that action, and they should focus on ways to make the communities they serve safer. 

What can an individual do: 

• Get vaccinated. The vaccines and boosters have been tremendously effective for those who use them. 

• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly – which is just good advice during the cold-and-flu season anyway. 

• Wear a mask in public places, use social distancing and avoid potential spreading events.  

• Stay home if you’re sick. 

It is impossible to know when this pandemic will end. But it will end. They always do. The key is to do what we can to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe in the immediate future.