Editorial

As a community we shouldn’t have to make our city and county commissions force us to act like adults — we should take personal responsibility and wear masks.

The rate of new COVID-19 infections is increasing drastically and a few simple steps could slow that to a standstill. We know most of our readers are already acting responsibly and we thank you.

For the rest of you, we’ve seen the plethora of false social media posts touting fake science: masks keep you from breathing and will suffocate you, the spread of COVID-19 is a media scam and really isn’t dangerous at all.

Well here you go. COVID-19 doesn’t kill everybody, it doesn’t even kill most everybody — but when the coronavirus gets in a nursing home it wreaks death and havoc. Why? Because nursing homes contain the sector of the population hardest hit by coronavirus. The coronavirus is highly contagious. That, coupled with its ability to hurt our older and fragile populations, makes it dangerous. For many others, it’s nothing but a cough or maybe a fever. But for a few, it’s death — plain and simple.

To put it simply, when coronavirus hits a nursing home, your grandparents, your mom and dad, your great-aunt, your child’s great-grandmother could die.

The thing is, when we don’t act like adults we don’t get to do what we want to do.

None of us want businesses to shut down again. It was an effective way to slow the quickly spreading contagion but it hurt many businesses and — let’s face it — after another shutdown, many businesses wouldn’t open back up.

The Centers for Disease Control has declared Georgia a red zone because of the number of new cases each day. Six weeks ago the state averaged 1,000 cases; now it’s near 2,500 on average.

Here’s a simple solution — we wear masks. Don’t go consult the know-it-alls with Facebook medical degrees, listen to real health professionals and people who actually know what they’re talking about.

And be wary of Facebook constitutional scholars who are convinced that this is all a conspiracy so the government can rob you of your rights.

In a recent joint city and county meeting discussing the merits of masks to contain the spread of the virus, ALL of our medical leaders — Floyd’s Kurt Stuenkel, Redmond’s John Quinlivan, Harbin Clinic’s Kenna Stock and the health department’s Dr. Gary Voccio — agreed that wearing masks was the right thing to do.

There’s a back and forth on whether the city or county should mandate us to wear masks. Atlanta’s doing it — Savannah and Athens, along with other cities, already have.

There’s a reason why medical professionals wear them. They stop the spread of diseases. In this case, you stop yourself from spreading the coronavirus. When someone else wears a mask, they stop themself from spreading the virus.

Similar to vaccines, we protect others by protecting ourselves — it’s like the most basic form of hive immunity.

So it’s easy. If you can’t stay away from people, put on your mask. Don’t force others to MAKE you do what you’re already perfectly capable of.

The public needs to be notified of public meetings

This has got to stop before it becomes a real problem, so let’s address this now.

Public meetings need to be open to the public and the public (including us) need to be notified there is going to be a meeting.

We reached out to the Floyd County Elections Board after meetings were not listed or only announced to certain individuals — one of whom is a member of our staff — and recently we’ve seen a Rome public safety meeting also go forward unannounced.

We’re hoping we’ve got the issues sorted out but want to stress to all our public agencies — you represent the citizens of Rome and Floyd County.

Also, it’s the law.

Here’s a few excerpts concerning Georgia’s Sunshine Laws:

♦ The public must be given full access to all open meetings and may make video and audio recordings of all open meetings.

♦ In addition to mandating open meetings, the law requires that agencies provide notice to the public in advance of all meetings, even emergency meetings.

♦ That means agencies must make information available to the general public by, in the case of regular meetings, posting at least one week in advance a notice containing the information in a conspicuous location at the agency’s regular meeting place and on its website, if the agency has one.

♦ The notice must do more than simply meet the technical requirements of the law. It must be sufficient to reasonably apprise a concerned party of an upcoming meeting and must not be misleading.

♦ Special or emergency meetings that are not held at the regularly posted time and place require more rigorous notice procedures. At least 24 hours in advance, notice must be posted at the regular meeting place and oral notification must be provided to the newspaper that serves as the legal organ for the county.

Also, let’s clear something else up.

Georgia law does not require that ANY meeting be closed. Agencies can opt to close a portion of their meeting for specific reasons — authorizing negotiations to sell or purchase property, discussion of certain legal matters and certain personnel issues. However, votes must be taken in full view of the public.

Also, the reasons why any agency wishes to close their session to the public must be stated.

Our government agencies should utilize the attorneys who are paid through our taxes to advise our officials on 1.) how to conduct a meeting legally and 2.) how to notify the public when a meeting is scheduled.

Thank you for reading.

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