According to the July 31, 2021, edition of the Daily Gazette, Saratoga County has the unfortunate position of having the highest positivity rate for COVID in New York State.
In the face of this, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has continued their practice of opacity. On Thursday, they announced the formation of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning (SHARP) Task Force which is charged with addressing ongoing developments regarding COVID. I use the word opacity because the county Health and Social Services Committee met the day before the announcement of the task force and there was no discussion whatsoever of the establishment of such a body let alone who would be appointed to it. All of this was done then outside of the public process of the county’s committees.
According to the Gazette:
“The announcement specifically cast doubt on directives and mandates as a public health strategy, however, and said the task force would focus on educating the public so it could make its own decisions.”
In other words, they have predetermined that there will be no mandates. Who decided this and why? The public has no idea.
There are arguments to be made both for and against mandates but clearly the decisions were made with a complete indifference to transparency or public input.
There appears to be no serious analysis behind the decision to reject mandates.
For a start it would seem important to try to answer a basic question in order to come up with an effective plan: Why is our county number one?
It would also be good to know why the idea of mandated mask wearing in indoor situations has been summarily dismissed.
According to the CDC the viral load of this current variant is staggering. The viral load is the number of viruses being expelled by infected individuals. Apparently the amount of viruses expelled by a person infected with the Delta variant is 1260 times greater than that of the original virus. This is one possible explanation for the sharp increase in cases and the fact that even vaccinated persons have been subject to infection in surprising numbers although those cases have almost always been less severe. Worse, even though the impact of the disease is greatly reduced for the vaccinated, they are still able to spread the disease even if they have no symptoms.
It may very well be that local businesses might be negatively impacted by a mask mandate and there may be other reasons to avoid this. Still, there are arguments to be made for mandating masks. A mandate could help protect employees in shops and restaurants particularly in Saratoga which has an influx of tourists from all over the country including from states with very high Covid rates. Aside from the well being of those workers, businesses, already struggling to hire enough staff, might find themselves having to reduce the hours they are open if staff members fall ill. Responsible policy makers need to be willing to discuss all options and their ramifications.
My concern is that it is ideology, not science driving this decision.
People’s rights need to be respected but we have an encyclopedia of examples where individual rights are limited in the interest of the public good. As just a couple of examples, we have drunk driving laws and shirts and shoes are often required in public venues.
The fact is that if you are a carrier of the disease and you are not wearing a mask, you are spreading the disease wherever you go. You are putting other people’s lives at risk.
One might also ask, is the county really going to come up with an education strategy as an alternative that is going to convince people to voluntarily wear masks?
Unfortunately, having such thoughtful discussions in front of the public is simply not the way this county operates.