NewsPub Notes

Leadership on Coronavirus Outside Athens Is Misleading and Contradictory

I was 86’d (kicked out) from Flagpole about a month ago because of my age and have been working from my dining room since. My wife, Gay, and I take our quarantine seriously. I have been out several times to pick up food, but otherwise we have stayed home and exercised precautions. Thanks to co-publisher Alicia Nickles and her husband, Matt Alston, plus Bryn Adamson, we have been well supplied with groceries, and Gay has outdone herself cooking good food. I have contributed corn muffins from time to time, more or less following The Grit Cookbook. This would be like a vacation, except that, working from home, I’m never sure when I’m off duty.

We’ve been gardening, too. As Gay’s yardman, I have been pulling weeds and digging up Star of Bethelem, wild garlic and potato vine and treating the roses, trees and shrubs to a dose of compost—more than our kitchen compost can cover.

We needed more of the Lowe’s compost and manure mix recommended by former White House gardener Wayne Amos, happily keeping his green thumb in the dirt back here in Athens.

I decided to venture out for the first time for something other than food. Lowe’s did not allow ordering this mixture online. I had heard how crowded the Oconee Lowe’s has been, but I reasoned that I would just be in the garden section outside. 

The parking lot was filled, and people strode alone or together toward the store and the garden annex unmasked, ungloved, unchanged from the last time I was there before the pandemic. I felt like I had just come out of a cave into the real, Technicolor world. To be sure, about one-fifth had on masks, as I certainly did, though my gloves were the only ones I spied. 

So, this is life outside the jurisdiction of Mayor Kelly Girtz and the commission! But, wait a minute, Gov. Brian Kemp has overruled Kelly. Wait another minute, President Trump has overruled Kemp. But Kemp is, as I write, still saying go right on ahead and get that tattoo: No problem. But the president’s top-level health advisers say Kemp is wrong and is risking the lives of hard-working Georgians, the only Georgians he ever acknowledges. Now, our Congressman Jody Hice says all the sheltering and social distancing was based on faulty information, that we destroyed our economy—not in Oconee—for nothing, and he demands a Congressional investigation to find out how that happened.

Then, at the end of last week, in his press conference to guide the country through the COVID-19 crisis, Trump mused that maybe ingesting Lysol would cleanse that virus right out of us, especially if we light up our insides with UV rays.

I mean, what the hell is going on? Our health officials and medical workers are desperately trying to grapple with it, but politicians won’t let them. The latest to chime in is Watkinsville mayor Bob Smith. “Let’s roll,” he says. (Let’s go infect everybody.)

Should we follow the president’s suggestion and substitute Lysol for the vermouth in our Manhattans? Is Hice right that we destroyed our country because we relied on experts?

The only level of government that has acted clearly and forcefully is our local ACC Mayor and Commission. And because of that timely clarity, our community has responded, at great sacrifice. The surrounding counties did not get that message, and now the state is getting the all-clear from the governor, while our congressman begins the search for scapegoats, and our president, while contradicting our governor, continues to peddle dangerous nostrums.

Time will tell whether we were right to hunker down here, to take the virus seriously and do what we can to hold it at bay. Our businesses and educational institutions have taken a body blow to protect our community and to protect our hospitals, which we are now reminded are not ours, but serve 17 counties, 16 of which have taken few precautions. 

People who are willing to make the sacrifices Athenians have made for the common good of our community deserve better state, federal and presidential leadership.