Friday, September 18, 2020

On misleadership

When the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, there was relatively little pushback against the most extreme (if necessary) steps which were taken out of a lack of knowledge of the coronavirus. 

At that time of uncertainty, we generally accepted that the only responsible response was to shut down non-essential activity until we had a better idea how to control its transmission. And indeed, a strong majority of people remain willing to do the same should it prove necessary.

Fortunately, the scientific understanding of COVID-19 has advanced to the point where we know it's possible to limit transmission while permitting a substantial number of activities which had been prohibited - as long as people wear a mask in the process. And a strong majority of people are willing to do that as well.

But given the high level of social responsibility actually expressed by the general public, it's absolutely unconscionable that so many governments continue to refuse to take basic steps to restrain COVID-19's spread. 

It of course only takes a small group of irresponsible people to cause a superspreading event. Which means that for the moment, some of the most important decisions leaders face involve their willingness to make clear that the public interest in controlling COVID-19 outweighs the dubious complaints of an ill-informed few. 

Yet Saskatchewan has seen Scott Moe not only refuse to mandate that people wear masks, but go out of his way to contradict his own public health officials by telling people it's fine not to bother wearing one. 

Instead, he's pointing to what appear to be outdated assumptions about physical distancing as being the sole precaution needed, while sending a continuous message that people shouldn't have any hesitation to prioritize their own comfort or aesthetic preferences over the dangers of a lethal disease. 

It's hard to see what Moe thinks he's accomplishing with that position. At this point, the number of people bothering to publicly object to mask requirements in Saskatchewan is strikingly similar to the death toll seen in adjacent states which haven't kept COVID-19 under reasonable control.  

But for now, one of the key layers of protection against the coronavirus relies on on Saskatchewan's people being far more responsible than their premier. And there's every reason to hold Moe responsible for putting us all at readily-avoidable risk.

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