Dear Editor,

This is an open letter to Miami County commissioners.

I am writing this letter because I am deeply troubled by the explosive spread of the COVID-19 virus nationally and the inaction by you to do all you can to slow the spread of the virus in Miami County. We are all aware, or least should be, of the tremendous surge of COVID-19 cases nationally. Worse yet, they are expected to triple or more in the coming months. In Kansas, as of Nov. 15, over the last two weeks, new cases increased by 110 percent (CDC, KDH, New York Times). Total number of deaths in KS stands at 1,256, total cases stand at 117,728. These numbers are expected to multiply exponentially in the coming months, it is a mathematical inevitability.

We are all experiencing some form of COVID fatigue. I want to add a personal experience for one of the 1,256 deaths by describing the death of my brother due to COVID-19 on June 22. I do this to help you understand what one of the numbers represent and in one instance what it is like to die of COVID. Deaths like this you could possibly prevent through a mask mandate. It obviously has been repeated 1,255 more times in one way or another in Kansas.

He was in a treatment facility within a mile or so of Miami County. He was diagnosed positive on a Thursday and died a horrible, gasping death the following Monday. Alerted by the medical personnel that he was likely to die in the next eight hours or so, we were determined to stay with him until the end. We were able to stay outside his window on the ground floor. The attending nurses were fantastic. They hand-signaled his blood oxygen content as It went from 84 to 43, at which time he died. It took about eight hours for the virus to fill his lungs. During that time, he gasped for air with all the strength he could muster in his weakened body. An hour or so before death, the nurses provided a phone number that we could call and they put the receiving phone to his ear so we could tell he him we loved him. It is my highest hope that the messages got through and he died knowing we were there for him.

It is personally incumbent on each of us to do all we can to slow the spread of this terrible killer. Since we can’t go into the labs and conduct research, there are personal actions we must do without fail. We all know what they are. One of the most important is to wear a face covering, a mask or a face shield. Experts in the field indicate that wearing a face covering outside the home can be 70 percent effective in slowing the spread of the virus in some instances. They also say the protection goes both ways — self and others nearby. It is such a simple act and can be done in seconds. Experts again say that wearing a mask could save hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few months, those include brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and others. Again, such a simple thing to do which doesn’t involve surgery, pills, vaccinations, pain or a terrible inconvenience, like death. It is predicted that a vaccine(s) will not be widely distributed until June or July of 2021. We must do all we can until then.

This is where you, our commissioners, can play a vital role that will reduce the spread of the virus. It is so incredibly difficult to understand why you will not issue a mask mandate for Miami County, which will save lives and result in uniform action throughout the county. For example, Paola and Osawatomie have mandates, Louisburg does not. This results in confusion and enables those who will not wear a mask to justify their selfish (thoughtless) decisions. Your reluctance to do so, mirrors the fragmented National approach which never issued a national mandate. Listen to the news for five minutes if you want to know how that worked out. I plead with you to follow the advice of the experts based on science and not the ideologies which have made the spread worse. Tell us which voices you are listening to justify your inactions.

I know, based on your feedback from the public, that there are lots of people opposed to wearing masks because it infringes on personal freedoms. Well, so do speed limits, traffic lights, wearing seat belts, paying taxes, vaccination requirements to attend school, etc. These are all for the public good, same as wearing masks. Think where we would be if actions on these were determined by the majority of emails against them.

Further, your reluctance to act in the face of overwhelming evidence that masks save lives can be interpreted that you really don’t care. Wearing a mask says an individual cares about others and personal safety. Do you think wearing a mask is somehow harmful or causes infections?

It is my plea for you to be responsive to the citizenry and do the right thing now to save lives. Inaction is what got us into this. Action that follows the science and the advice of the experts is the only way out. The brothers and all others will deeply appreciate you following the science and issue a mask mandate for Miami County. Thank you, and please accept these comments in the kind spirit in which it is intended.

Ken Bingman

Spring Hill

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