Palestine Mayor Steve Presley 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article thanking the public for distancing, wearing face masks, and practicing good hygiene to mitigate the coronavirus in Palestine and Anderson County. On June 24, the county reported only 20 active cases.

Since then, however, the number of active cases in Anderson County has soared: 41 on July 1, and 111 on July 8. Last week, Anderson County reported its first COVID-related death. The victim was an elderly man. 

Following state and national trends, local COVID cases on two days last week included record numbers of new cases. Almost certainly, more deaths will come with more cases. Already, 140,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-related causes.

The largest growth in cases comes from people under 40. Many of that generation believed they were invincible. Often asymptomatic, they can infect other people unknowingly.

Texas hospitals are filling up rapidly. If they are overwhelmed, they will be unable to properly treat the growing numbers of COVID cases.

COVID-19 also has infected the local economy. Many businesses risk closing. The rise of COVID-19 could force Texas to shut down again. Numerous small businesses, and the jobs they provide, will disappear. Other businesses and taxpayers will have to make up the loss of revenue that pays for our public safety, roads, and other city services.

It's a grim picture, but we can change it.

Top scientists and the best available evidence tell us wearing face masks is the single most effective action for controlling any virus. One study showed they reduce the chance of transmission by 85 percent.

Why, then, do some people refuse to wear them?

Are they hot and inconvenient? At times, yes, but what's a little inconvenience compared to saving a life?

Some Christians apparently believe they can ignore the governor's proclamation. The Bible is clear, however. We must follow man’s law in this case.

The biblical quote, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and onto God the things that are God's,” means submitting to worldly authorities when it is appropriate to do so.

A public health disaster certainly is one of those occasions. The proclamation is not unconstitutional, as one local elected official said. The U.S. Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the Constitution, has over the last 200 years consistently upheld the power of states to control dangerous diseases.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants states enormous powers to regulate behavior during a public health crisis, including taking emergency actions, setting quarantines, and restricting businesses. It's no different than banning smoking in public places or requiring drivers to wear seat belts.

When misinformed elected officials publicly raise the bogus issue of constitutionality, they are giving some people an excuse to eschew masks and endanger others. That's irresponsible.

What right does anyone have to infect others by refusing to follow healthy protocol and wear a mask? None, I say.

Let's follow the proclamation and wear masks in public. Let's avoid gathering with others without practicing social distancing.

When coming in contact with others, follow all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can find them easily.

The life you save may be your grandmother's or favorite aunt's – or maybe even your own.

Steve Presley is the mayor of Palestine.

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