Your paper’s recent commentary, “It’s in our DNA to resist a mandate,” completely misses the point. In a vacuum, the decision as to whether you want to expose yourself to a life-threatening danger should be yours. That is, unless your risk-taking subjects others to the same dangers without their consent. Not only is your decision in such event selfish, but if you are a virus carrier, that decision can grievously impact others. Most of our laws are not designed to keep people from acting stupid. That is your right as long as you do not harm others in the process. An example is that DUI laws are not designed to prevent you from drinking but prevent you from getting on a highway and killing others while exercising your right to drink.
The actions of our governor, County Commission and City Council are deplorable. We are now one of the epicenters of increased COVID-19 activity throughout the world. Never in my memory have we had over 500 of our local medical professionals ask for a local ordinance that creates such minimal inconvenience to the public with proven scientific reduction in the spread of COVID-19 and have the request ignored by local government.
While many governors have taken decisive action, Florida’s has largely left it up to local government and merely provided platitudes. Locally, that leaves us with our county and municipal government to protect us. The county has not even addressed the problem and the city declined action following the mayor’s expression of vague uneasiness about enforcement, the president of the City Council having problems with a mandate and a third City Council member being concerned that a $25 fine for the second willful violation of an ordinance was too much. Our governmental representatives do not have the courage to handle a full-scale emergency.
There is no recognized scientist that does not agree that until there is a vaccine, social distancing and the wearing of face masks is the only way to limit the spread of this virus. With the exception of medical quality masks, most are designed to protect others from the wearer’s discharged fluids transmitted through the air to others and not to totally prevent the virus from getting through the masks as you inhale. Social distancing can be voluntary or enforced through mandate of law.
A quick trip through our community demonstrates that asking voluntary compliance is failing. Absent compulsory compliance, the spread will continue. The easiest way to afford protection is through the required use of face masks when people are in public along with requiring merchants to enforce their use upon penalties of closure by code enforcement. Other communities have done this successfully and seen positive results.
We are rapidly giving out of time to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19. My optimism says that we will finally see local government enact emergency laws to protect its citizens. Sadly, a lifetime of experience in Ocala suggests we will have politics as usual.
John M. Green Jr. is a lawyer and lives in Ocala.