Ever since the pandemic reached Salem last spring, there's been little communication from Mayor Bennett, City Manager Powers, the three Marion County commissioners, and other elected officials (such as the eight city councilors) about the need to follow Governor Brown's public health orders.
Yes, some City of Salem press releases have been issued. Yes, city councilors have used Facebook to urge physical distancing, mask wearing, and such. However, this mainly happened early this year.
So by and large -- and especially now, when daily COVID cases and deaths have reached new highs in Oregon -- the silence from our local leaders has been deafening.
There's so much that Bennett, Powers, the county commissioners, local state legislators, and city councilors could be doing, but aren't.
For example, why haven't politicians and city officials across the political spectrum gotten together to issue a joint statement that urges people and businesses to strictly follow the new guidelines put forward by Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus?
That statement would be front page news in the Statesman Journal and Salem Reporter (OK, the latter doesn't have a front page, being online only). It would show that public health efforts have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with sound science.
Which can't be separated from economics.
The reason Salem health clubs are closed and indoor dining at restaurants isn't allowed is because previous efforts to control COVID-19 weren't followed long enough and strictly enough. Half-hearted measures lead to a diminished economy.
"Opening up" is crazy when the virus is everywhere in the community.
Yet Trump has made that his mantra for purely political reasons. Sadly, many millions of Americans believed him when he claimed that this country had turned the corner on the pandemic.
Well, Trump was right in one sense. Fall and winter have turned the corner onto the most deaths, cases, and hospitalizations since the pandemic hit our shores. This is the sad result here in Oregon, as reported today by the Oregon Health Authority.
This isn't the time for Republicans, Democrats, and everybody else to stay silent. Anyone with an ability to reach people needs to speak up about the need to do what's advised above: minimize close contact with others, keep gatherings small, wear a face covering, and wash hands frequently.
Other countries have done much better than the United States at fighting the coronavirus.
Those nations have more of a communal sense of "we're all in this together," while Trump and too many other Republican politicians have made mask wearing and public health orders into a left vs. right thing -- whereas actually it is a medical science vs. ignorance thing.
That's why I believe it would be really helpful for Mayor Bennett, City Manager Powers, all eight city councilors (six progressives and two conservatives), all three Republican county commissioners, and other elected officials in this area to come together as one to urge everybody to comply with public health orders until the coming vaccines make it possible to relax our fight against COVID-19.
Sure, likely some of these people would refuse to sign on to a joint COVID statement because they're afraid of incurring the wrath of constituents who don't believe that the coronavirus is a real thing, and/or that governments have any business telling people what to do.
To which I'd reply: wrong and wrong. The coronavirus is indeed a real thing, and governments do indeed have a right to protect the health of the community by issuing public health orders.
The good news is, sometime in 2021 almost everyone who wants a vaccine will have been able to get one. Until then, we need to save lives by uniting together to do what needs to be done to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Too many people have gotten overly complacent about the pandemic. They need a wake-up call. Our local leaders need to do some blaring of horns.