Defining the word ‘emergency’ today
I am writing this letter in response to a column written by Mark Chapin in the Saturday, June 6 edition of The Inter-Mountain. As I understand it, Chapin normally writes about hikes in the woods and wildlife. In this column, however, he gets into politics. The title to his column is “Surviving the tyranny of ’emergency'” with emergency in quotes. Chapin appears to believe that the policies put in place by governors and mayors as a result of the pandemic are tyrannical.
First of all, I would have to quibble about the use of quotes around the word emergency. Does Chapin think that people dying is not an emergency? What about people collapsing in the parking lot of a hospital, or the sound of sirens all night long in Brooklyn, or the use of refrigerated tractor trailers to hold all the bodies, because the hospital morgue is full?
One of his examples is a mayor shutting down churches. According to the public health experts, church is one of the highest risks during this pandemic. One of our first hot spots in West Virginia was a cluster of cases and deaths in Marion County that all resulted from a big celebration at a church. Instead of being a tyrant, that mayor was being a good leader by trying to protect his constituents.
Fortunately, most of the governors in our country have listened to the public health experts and put in place policies that helped keep the pandemic from getting out of hand. Our governor was one of those. Our state has come through pretty well so far, because of policies put in place to protect people-staying at home, social distancing, good hand washing, and using masks.
Because of what people are seeing on the conservative social media, there seems to be many people who are against face coverings and masks. I think the problem is that people are getting the purpose for the mask backwards from what it really is. If I am wearing a mask, I am not protecting myself from you. I am protecting you from me.
I have heard stories of people being harassed for wearing a face mask in Elkins — one was the son of one of my friends — a kid of all things! Instead, you should be saying “Thank you” for protecting me. Unfortunately, some of our leaders are not showing a good example by not wearing the mask themselves, putting all the people around them at risk and showing citizens that it is OK not to wear a mask. Japan is a good example of how well the mask works — their numbers for deaths and illness were low, and all they did was have everyone wear a mask.
I believe that public health policies like these save lives. A good example of public health policy is requiring vaccines for kids in the schools. Those vaccines are one of the biggest public health victories of the 20th century (that and water sanitation). Another example is requiring helmets for motorcycles or bicycles. Maybe those people should be free to make their own decision and not wear a helmet and die from a head injury, but I think those policies save lives.
I think a better example of tyranny is when the president of the United States uses the military to hurt his own citizens who are exercising their First Amendment right of freedom of speech by peacefully protesting, just so he can walk across a park to a church for a photo op.
Mary Boyd, MD,
Health Officer for