As the pandemic worsens and coronavirus cases surge in Missouri, pleas from overworked and increasingly overwhelmed medical professionals continue to fall on the deaf ears of Gov. Mike Parson.
“The wolf is at the door,” warned Herb Kuhn, president and chief executive of the Missouri Hospital Association, in a letter to Parson on Friday. “Missouri’s hospitals urge you to issue a statewide masking mandate.”
Kuhn was echoing pleas from the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, Dr. Alex Garza, who was even more direct: “We’re at war. And right here, right now, the virus is winning.”
Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans support a nationwide mask mandate. It is only a vocal, mostly right-wing fringe element that stands in opposition, fueled by a lame-duck president who denies science as well as his own election loss. To date, Parson has sided with the fringe over science and has denied the requests of doctors and hospital administrators, leaving Missouri’s mayors and county executives to fill the leadership void and take the political blowback that Parson is avoiding.
The state requires citizens to do any number of things for the common good, from wearing seat belts and having car insurance to abiding by posted speed limits. This ill-timed philosophical debate over the perceived authoritarianism of mask mandates has real-life ramifications. Hospitals are filling up. Medical staffs are overwhelmed. Elective surgeries are being postponed. And people will start dying at higher rates. Unnecessarily.
The “personal responsibility” political shield Parson has hid behind is the governor’s way of running from his own responsibility. With Thanksgiving just days away, thousands of unknowingly infected Missourians will sit down, unmasked, with close family members. Health professionals are bracing for the disaster that will follow, which is why they are begging Parson to show leadership before it’s too late.
Masks alone aren’t a cure-all. But political resistance to even this most simple of solutions is one of the reasons America leads the world in coronavirus cases and deaths.