Inaction speaks louder than words.

          Last Tuesday Duncan Regional Hospital President and CEO Jay Johnson made a second appeal  to the Duncan City Council to enact a mask mandate.

          According to Charlene Belew’s story in The Banner, Johnson explained that a month previously, the hospital had 16 COVID-19 patients; four weeks later there were 32.

          “What will we look like in four more weeks?” Johnson asked. “If we double again, and have 64 COVID-19 patients, that will be about all our hospital is doing.”

          The hospital had already restricted visitation to keep visitors from exacerbating the coronavirus spread.

          But, medical professionals need not look to Duncan City Hall for meaningful, life-saving leadership.  Mayor Ritchie Dennington said bluntly, “’Mandate’ is not a word that I like to use – and won’t.”

          Vice Mayor Lindsay Hayes – “I don’t wear a mask most of the time” – praised local medical professionals while dismissing their expert recommendations.

          Again following The Banner’s story: “In the beginning …it was a time of fear and uncertainty and we all banded together to ensure everyone stayed safe,” Hayes said. “The community sat back and did what they were asked to do and they watched how things went down and what happened. And what happened was thousands — thousands — of small businesses were forced to close while huge corporations made billions.”

          Who banded together? I channel-surfed into a televised city council meeting in August. Council members and everyone at the main desk sat within forearms’ reach of each other; the only mask in evidence was on a police officer. And, within weeks it was announced that City Manager Kim Meeks and her husband had tested positive for COVID-19.

          Hayes said she was representing people afraid of losing their businesses to pandemic restrictions who might be afraid to speak up – without explaining how anyone could feel such trepidation in Stephens County, which just voted 81 percent in favor of our profit-prioritizing president whose own lying denials about the pandemic has made it about twice as deadly as it should have been.

          “It’s obvious where I stand on the issue. I think that the hospital has every right to recommend. We can encourage,” Hayes said (though not wearing a mask “most of the time” is strange way to encourage community health).  

          “I think Jay’s right,” she said. “It’s great to encourage people to wear the masks, but as long as I’m up here, I will fight for the right of the people to have the freedom to choose. Absolutely, 100 percent.” (Great to see we have an “absolutely, 100 percent” pro-choice Duncan politician!)

          “And, if I am so far off on how I view what the people are telling me to do, if I am so wrong in all that I said, there are ways to remove me from this seat, and I welcome you to do it.”

          The local profit over people preference, just cited, makes this defiant challenge as hollow as her non-supportive praise of the “wonderful, beautiful” people in the medical community. Someone might remind our vice mayor that standing at the front of a mob doesn’t mean that you’re leading it.

          Real leaders take the stands that need to be taken regardless of which way the hot air of public opinion is blowing.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: or

Council embraces pandemic inaction

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