Editorial: Public officials, agencies lagging on masks

From Marco Island to Manatee County, too many public officials and agencies still…

Editorial: Public officials, agencies lagging on masks 1

Editorial
 |  USA TODAY Network-Florida

All across Southwest Florida too many public officials and agencies continue to float along in some hazy parallel universe where — despite the reams of scientific evidence stating otherwise — there is:

  • No need for them to personally wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has killed nearly 30,000 Floridians.
  • No obligation to insist that others also wear masks to keep themselves and those around them safe from the deadly virus.

Take Marco Island, where six of the seven city councilors have repeatedly blown off wearing masks during regular council meetings; to her credit Councilor Claire Babrowski has managed to wear one, making her a solitary isle of COVID conscientiousness on that island’s lawmaking body.

Then again the Marco Island City Council has been in a suspended state of blissful obliviousness regarding COVID-19, period. How much so? So much so that it has yet to even consider a mask mandate despite the fact that:

  • Both Marco Island’s home county (Collier) and nearby neighbor (Naples) have mask guidelines or recommendations.
  • According to 2019 U.S. Census estimates, slightly more than half of Marco Island’s population is 65 years of age or older — the very demographic that’s extremely vulnerable to contracting and dying from COVID-19.

But let’s not just single out Marco Island.

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What about some 100-plus miles north in Sarasota County, where some have expressed concern that the Sarasota County Area Transit agency is moving with the speed of a pedestrian wearing cinder blocks for shoes when it comes to enforcing mandated rules requiring passengers to wear masks on its vehicles?

Or what about in Manatee County, where — as Herald-Tribune columnist and reporter Chris Anderson has repeatedly documented — the county commissioners appear hellbent on finding increasingly absurd ways to flaunt their mule-headed disdain for wearing face masks?

All of these questions lead to another one:

Shouldn’t the public’s tax dollars buy a lot more good judgment than these public officials and agencies — and sadly, plenty more across Southwest Florida — are displaying in their willful refusal to embrace a simple step to protect the public health of this region?

Editorial: Public officials, agencies lagging on masks 2

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It’s not merely a contemptible form of indifference toward the citizens that these officials and agencies are supposed to serve — it continues to be a dangerous one, too.

And it needs to come to an end.

It’s time for the defiant public officials and laggard agencies to start taking mask-wearing more seriously, and to stop shirking their duty to promote proper public health policies during a pandemic that — despite the growing distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines — remains very real.

Editorial written for The News-Press and Naples Daily News by the USA TODAY Network-Florida opinion editors.

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