Last Saturday, July 18, a story appeared in "The Derrick and The News-Herald" about local community leaders banding together to release a statement that - in order to get businesses back open to full capacity - wearing masks in public is what it is going to take. Several business leaders as well as the three Venango County commissioners attached their name to this letter. They released it to the public including local media.
The Derrick and News-Herald reported on this.
Next to the story on page one was another story about a new business planned for Emlenton featuring a tour of the building taken by the commissioners. This article was accompanied by two photographs, one showing commissioner Sam Breene entering a building without a mask and the other showing all three commissioners in close proximity with other officials on the tour inside the building. No one wearing a mask. These photos were taken by Emlenton mayor Jamie Hunt.
So was this just unfortunate juxtaposition on a newspaper page or truly mixed signals from our leadership. A handful of letters to the editor in the newspaper since have called the commissioners out on their supposed hypocrisy.
When I spoke with commissioners Mike Dulaney and Chip Abromovic, they both noted the extreme heat in of the 90 degree day and the lack conditioning in the building. Dulaney said a discussion among everyone was had prior to entering the building and everyone was comfortable not wearing masks.
Is wearing mask only a safety measure when it's convenient? Can we all agree to not wear a mask and suddenly we're all protected?
It seems this is the key part of the equation that needs to be figured out. Is wearing a mask some compliance to an overreaching system as many suggest, or is it sound science?
And if the President of the United States says we should wear a mask, the Governor says we should wear a mask, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health says we should wear a mask and then our own commissioners say we should wear a mask... should we not think we ought to wear a mask?
Let's not forget the Center for Disease Control or the National Institute of health.
So was this juxtaposition in the newspaper an intentional jab at the commissioners for not following their own advice?
What if it was?
Does that even change the fact they were involved in a meeting without donning masks with others who were also maskless? What if no one took pictures, would that change that fact?
It gets easy to point fingers at the "liberal bias" of news media, but reportage of actual facts is not "liberal bias." And suggesting so is complete deflection. You either believe it is important to wear a mask or you don't.
On top of this, the commissioners knew the mayor was there taking photos and that he was supplying them to the newspaper. Dulaney said the newspaper representative, meaning the mayor who is a freelance correspondent for the paper, also wasn't wearing a mask. Without getting into whether it was appropriate for Hunt to be maskless or not, it really doesn't change the action of these leaders.
These three young commissioners mean very well for the community and have big hearts for the county they serve. They perhaps just made a mistake on a very hot day. Perhaps in the future they won't tour a facility where it is uncomfortable to wear a mask they say is important to wear and simply reschedule for safety sake. There have been some apologies and a lot of discussion among the community leaders about the mixed message of these articles. So maybe some good will come from this?
You can read the letter signed by area community leaders here.