THE BOTTOM LINE: Where is the leadership?

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To the leaders who haven’t acted, I ask why not. If not in a time of crisis when should we expect leadership from you?

  • Ledger photo by JJ Francais           Shelves of an area WalMart remain empty despite new store hours to accommodate cleaning and stocking.
    Ledger photo by JJ Francais Shelves of an area WalMart remain empty despite new store hours to accommodate cleaning and stocking.
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Times of crisis require broad thinking, bold leadership and more often than not require those in power to make decisions that are controversial.

This past week Lawton Mayor Stan Booker joined cities around the nation in closing buffets, dine-in restaurants, gyms and other areas that would attract crowds. Monday he said he will be amend that list to include nail salons and other businesses. This is not unprecedented. In fact, during the Spanish Flu everything from churches to football games were canceled. Businesses across multiple industries were shuttered from coast to coast. 

It wasn’t just big city then and it isn’t just big city now. This past week Chattanooga, Frederick, Medicine Park and Apache all closed their restaurants on the recommendation from the leading experts in the health community. This is not unprecedented or unwarranted. All of the world’s leading health experts from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, United States Department of Health and Human Services and many others all say that social distancing and isolation are the only things that will flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus. 

BUT WILL IT WORK?

Isolation and social distancing work if we actually implement it. This is one area where the “honor system” doesn’t work. For rather anecdotal evidence look at the photos of the packed beaches for Spring Break in Florida. Health officials blew the whistle loudly. They cautioned that the healthy would carry the virus home to those who are less able to fight it.

They blew the whistle, but no one was listening. So, we can’t shut down one city and not another and expect to stop this virus. Very few of us live in such a small bubble that we don’t cross county and city lines. Lawton has shut down but small towns throughout Comanche County and surrounding counties remain open for business. Too many consumers drive from the larger county seats to small-town restaurants and usual haunts and then drive back to Lawton 

Altus and Duncan and potentially take the virus back with them. If the leadership in these towns cannot heed the calls from the nation’s leading health professionals and take measures to protect their populace, should they continue to have the sole authority on the matter?

I know that this virus and our responses have already changed the way we live our lives, do business and 1,000 other ways we haven’t thought about yet. I know there will be more changes coming and these will likely get a bit more chaotic before life returns to “normal.” But perhaps one of the changes we can all look at it is, should questions of public health be left up to the politicians or should it be made by officials we put in charge of public health?

It seems to me that we could have and probably should have shut the gates of larger ecosystems say Comanche County or Oklahoma for two weeks, starved this virus out and reopened with gusto. Instead, we will have some businesses closed for longer than two weeks and some businesses oblivious to all of it and all the while the virus creeps along from patient to patient.

The editorial staff and I thank the mayors and councils who have heeded the advice of those who are the most informed. Those leaders who have chosen to act to protect their citizens. Those who have put the health of their citizens above commerce, leisure and pleasantries. But more must be done. To the leaders who haven’t acted, I ask why not. If not in a time of crisis when should we expect leadership from you?

To all the business owners who have converted to dine-out, pinched the nickels and gone above and beyond to keep their customers happy and their employees working, you have my sincerest gratitude and you will have my business, not just now but in the future.

Please stay aware, informed and safe.