I was recently singled out by the Bulletin for my decision not to wear a mask during a recent address to a group in Redmond. The Bulletin wrote a lengthy story about the event, a rally by citizens who want to reopen the economy, highlighting my supposed lapse in judgment. That story was followed by a Bulletin editorial accusing me of failing to “set a good example” by not social distancing or wearing a mask.
Although I donned my mask following remarks to the crowd, and only talked with a few people at the event, The Bulletin wrote that I “blundered” by not wearing a mask the entire time and by not social distancing. Each of us has to make our own decisions about how to safeguard our health and the health of those around us. Obviously, common sense and good personal hygiene should always govern our actions.
Let me be clear: I did not wear a mask because I wanted the participants in the rally to be able to see me as I spoke. Nor was I able to maintain social distance throughout the rally as some participants wanted to greet me. Few of them, as the story noted, were wearing masks.
I wear a mask — one of four my wife made for me — at most events I attend, including numerous county meetings. My primary concern is the health of fellow citizens. I am also concerned, however, as were the participants at the rally, with the damage the continued shutdown is having on our many small businesses which have been forced to close and their employees who have lost jobs. Another focus of the rally was the infringement on our constitutional rights to peaceably assemble.
I don’t know whether The Bulletin was more concerned about the need to wear a mask in public “to set a good example” or condemning my participation in an event with people of whom it does not approve. Many of those present object to politically-motivated efforts to keep our economy shut down and the abuse of our rights.
The need to reopen our economy should be non-partisan. The virus, of course, does not care about one’s background or beliefs. Nor does the shutdown make a political distinction. Many of our small businesses and self-employed are suffering and it is important to allow them to reopen as soon as possible. In Deschutes County we had 90 known infections as of 5/12/20. Two people are currently hospitalized. Given those facts, it is imperative to get back to work, while doing it in a way that protects the health of employees and patrons.
At the time of this writing, we are in the 8th week of mandated shutdown of hundreds of government-defined “non-essential” businesses in Deschutes County. My concern is that there is little financial rescue planned for small businesses and the self-employed. Many of the participants at the rally are owners of small businesses, employees of those businesses, or individual entrepreneurs. Unlike large companies with substantial resources or employers with access to the Payroll Protection Program, these “mom and pop” businesses — such as restaurants, personal services and boutique retail stores — often have little in reserve, but were required by the Governor’s executive order to close. These are the kinds of businesses I started when I was in my 20s and are an important part of our economic backbone. They may not be “essential” according to the government but you can bet they are essential to the people who own them.
The damage to our economy and to personal finances by prolonging the shutdown is devastating. We must responsibly restore normal operations in the county. I have been working with my fellow commissioners and our health department to make that happen. The Bulletin and its readers who support COVID-19 restrictions should consider the impact continuing the lockdown is having on businesses, our financial well-being, and our personal liberty.