FROM THE MAYOR’S DESK: The ‘learning to live with it’ phase

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By Mayor Stan Booker

  • Photo illustration by Bryan M. Richter
    Photo illustration by Bryan M. Richter
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I am old enough to remember many things. One of them is standing in a very long line with my family, indeed many families, at the Health Department to get the Oral Polio Vaccine. I was about six years old and this oral vaccine was on a sugar cube.

That memory has been replayed in my mind several times over the last several weeks as we navigate through life with a novel virus that will someday require us to vaccinate masses once again. Getting the vaccine was important but even more so to a family that had directly seen the impact of the poliovirus.

I am also old enough to remember when the speed limit was 55 mph on the interstate.

In 1974, during the Arab Oil Embargo, the Federal Government mandated that no maximum speed should be over 55 mph in order to save gas. As they began to relax the mandate, people said, “We want to drive 70.” Others were saying that if we go back to higher speed limits, accidents will increase and associated deaths as well.

The Washington Post published an editorial that called a return to higher speeds, “foolhardy,” as lower speeds had saved 36,000 lives. But, the public said, “We want to drive 70.” And, so it was, we drove 70. At some point, we increased that to 75, and soon 80 on some stretches. Think about the thought process society has gone through to justify a speed limit of 80 when it used to be 55. Will 85 be next? I’m not passing judgment, rather I’m just analyzing the thought process.

For those who don’t want to drive that fast, you can drive whatever speed under the speed limit you want, provided that it be a minimum of 40mph. If 40 mph is too fast for you, then you are not allowed to use the interstate highway system.

But, there are other highways where you can drive slower. On the other end if you want to drive faster, well, you can’t — legally. But here will always be those who want to drive 90. You know the ones, when you see them come barreling down in your rearview mirror, you tense up and pray you are out of their way, relaxing only after they have passed by. To them, it is generally all about them.

As we move into this “Learning to Live with It” phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I can’t help but think about the speed limit analogy. As our focus has rightly changed to the safety of our every activity, and the thought of how the virus may be transmitted, some activities seem more dangerous than others.

For instance, getting a haircut where the stylist is standing close and working on your head, alerts us to the fact that we might be driving 90. Now look, we are all going to need a haircut sooner or later or we will all look like Duck Dynasty. So, to make a haircut safer, we take temperatures, wear masks, and require sanitization between every client, with no crowded waiting area, as everyone waits in their car.

With the addition of these safety protocols we are not driving 90 now, but maybe 70. And when better masks are available, it will slow to 55. And if you don’t want to drive 70, you can drive 40, and not get a haircut. Another thing you can do is get a haircut less often and expose yourself less.

As we venture into the “Learning to Live with It” phase of this pandemic, apply the speed limit analogy to every activity and you can make your decision if you want to do it. As we began the move into this phase with the federal and state plans, I asked an epidemiologist to review our safety protocols for the style shops.

The comment came back that the problem is not the day that it all went into effect, rather a few weeks, or even days, as we began to relax our discipline in our protocols. That is called human nature. I call it the creeps. It seems like I allow things to creep into my life a little at a time, letting down my guard. This is not the time for the creeps. Stay diligent. And watch out for the guy driving 90, and pray you are out of his way.

Let’s all work together to keep our most vulnerable citizens protected. Stay diligent and stay safe. We must stay on track to get normal back. As we navigate through this pandemic, I remain confident in our future together. Thank you to the Southwest Ledger for allowing me to communicate with the citizens.

Editor’s Note: Because of the seriousness and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Southwest Ledger is currently running columns written by Lawton Mayor Stan Booker in an effort to keep citizens aware of current issues regarding the virus and other matters.

The Ledger ownership and management believes the more open and honest communication that can be made available to the public by city officials, the better our city and surrounding communities will come through this ordeal.