May 27, 2020 10:34:36 AM
If communities were graded on how well citizens have responded to the guidelines put in place to fight COVID-19, the Golden Triangle has fared better than most, based on what we've seen and heard from other parts of the state.
As an example, last Saturday thousands of people, few wearing masks and even fewer even pretending to exercise social distancing, attended a crawfish festival in Ocean Springs, an act of defiance of the state's Safer at Home guidelines. The event was given a permit by the city, whose mayor has been openly opposed to the state guidelines.
In Jackson, a minister was spit on for wearing a mask.
In shops and businesses throughout the state, mask-wearers are often in a clear minority.
By contrast, we've neither heard nor seen many examples of such aggressive defiance of the safeguards put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
That is not to say that there aren't some who defy the guidelines. We still see plenty of people in public places who refuse to wear masks, for example. Social distancing is often neglected as well. Gripes on social media about the guidelines are fairly prevalent too.
But the majority of Golden Triangle residents seem to be making a good-faith effort to follow these guidelines. As restrictions continue to be relaxed or eliminated, that's more important than ever. Barring an outbreak on a scale that would compel the state and cities to again impose severe restrictions, it seems likely that our safety will rely almost entirely on our own personal conduct.
If that's the case, we believe the Golden Triangle has established a "safety first" culture that will serve us well. We know the virus has not disappeared, that it remains a serious threat to public health, that we have an important role -- perhaps the most important role -- in limiting the spread of the virus. Most of us have taken that obligation seriously.
We believe our city and county leaders have provided good leadership in helping create a culture of compliance, even though they have at times faced sharp criticism.
We especially commend the city of Columbus for bringing to the table stakeholders - pastors and business owners from all types of businesses -- in developing its plans for re-opening.
Churches, in particular, have responded admirably. Although they've been allowed to hold services, few -- if any -- have rushed to throw open their doors. Most continue to worship virtually.
Aside from long-term care facilities, there is no higher concentration of people over age 60 -- those who are most vulnerable to the virus -- than is commonly found at church services. Our pastors seem to understand the stakes.
Yet in other parts of the state and nation, churches have struck defiant tones and have resumed services. There are those who will tell you that attending church at this time is an act of faith, yet scripture addresses this clearly: "Thou shalt not put the Lord Thy God to the test."
Our churches, in particular, have shown true leadership. They have put the health of their congregants above all other concerns.
Our communities have, in large measure, been equal to the challenge. We urge continued vigilance and restraint, guided always by the knowledge that our actions will play an ever increasing role in meeting the challenges that await us.
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