Gov. Mike Parson took a positive step on behalf of Missourians this month in the fight against COVID-19, but the step he took is merely reactive – acting to address the suffering being wrought as the virus spreads – versus proactive, which would have prevented the virus from spreading in the first place.
Parson deserves a pat on the back for entering into a “12-week partnership” with Vizient, a company that is expected to add staff and take other steps to expand capacity as hospital beds are filled by people who are sick and dying due to coronavirus infections. At this time, intensive care unit beds across Missouri are 89% full. Expanding capacity is a critical step in the effort to save lives, a step that Parson recognizes.
“Since the start of COVID-19, we have continually monitored Missouri’s statewide health care system and focused on supporting our hospitals and health care workers as much as possible,” Parson said. “Staffing continues to be one of the biggest challenges right now, and we are currently doing everything we can at the state level to assist.”
Vizient is expected to deploy up to 760 staff members – including registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified nurse assistants – to hospitals statewide. When staff is deployed fully, the plan will add nearly 600 hospital beds to Missouri’s statewide bed capacity.
Again, this is a positive step to fight COVID-19 in people who are infected. Give Parson credit for that, because credit it is due.
But blame also is due.
Instead of facing medical reality, Parson has embraced political reality.
This newspaper is among the media outlets, and medical professionals have done the same, in letting Parson know directly that wearing a mask prevents the spread of the coronavirus. He knows that is true.
Parson also knows – because protestors in Jefferson City have told him – the political reality that many Missourians have no interest in medical reality. Some consider the virus a hoax. Some have said the virus would end after the presidential election, suggesting doctors gave precautionary advice only to keep people scared so they would vote for liberals, socialists and nanny-state cucks. Some protestors – and with good reason based in fact – worried fighting the virus hurt and even doomed their businesses. For these bad and good reasons, protestors carried signs and lambasted Parson outside his office at the Capitol in April.
Sometimes, doing what is right is not clear. But in the case of COVID-19, doing what is right is clear and great leaders do what is right, regardless of the political consequences. Medical professionals have used science to prove their point about wearing masks. The state medical and nurses associations united in July to urge Parson to implement a statewide masking requirement. Again, in late November – 200,000 new Missouri cases later – the groups repeated their request at a time when Missouri faces a much more precarious situation.
In the face of reliable medical science, in the face of nearly 400,000 Missourians having contracted the disease, in the face of more than 5,260 Missourians having died from the disease, Parson has stubbornly refused to issue a mask mandate.
Parson has said he wants Missourians to make that decision for themselves.
The trouble with that noble-sounding idea is that Missourians who refuse to wear masks make that decision not only for themselves, but also for everyone with whom they have contact.
And some of those people get sick.
Some of those people die.
Missouri has a seat belt law to save lives. For the same reason, a mask mandate is reasonable and necessary.