By LISA MACNEIL
...‘fear and anxiety.’ Those aren't good terms to make government policy after… you want to make the most calm, rational decision that benefits the greatest amount of people.”
- Commissioner Holcomb
At the regular meeting on March 24, 2020, the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) discussed the latest changes in everyday life for both the county government and the citizens of Hernando county -- as well as the rest of the country.
Chairman John Mitten opened the discussion by reading from a prepared statement.
“It’s only been a couple of weeks since the last county commission meeting, yet it seems a world away. A month ago, things were drastically different. There was a world where jobs were secure, there was a world where our economy was experiencing a ‘high,’ and there was a world where aging seniors could walk without fear in public with family and friends.
“But since that time, things have drastically changed. To what degree? Irrevocably, we don’t know yet. What we do know is that there is a very contagious virus that’s loose in our nation. It doesn’t have a vaccine yet, however strides are being made to that end. Corrective medications are being tested. But it is particularly dangerous and deadly to our aging seniors.
“It’s interesting that something like this virus is not intimidated by military might, it’s not negotiated with using any sum of money, and it has absolutely no concern for political party.
This pestilence is not new to our country or the world; when you look at the world, when you look at the plagues of the past with leprosy, and bubonic plague, and typhoid, and measles, and smallpox. These different things have been around for a long time, so why is this one any different? It's different because it's here, now. It's in America, it's in Florida, it's in Hernando County, and this is our home and this is our families, our loved ones, and it's our livelihood at stake. So this is a very real concern for all of us.
“So for many people this virus is a cause of fear and anxiety, for others frustration and anger. Many people seem to fall on the idea that we're not doing enough, and then many others seem to fall on the other side that we've done too much, and it's overblown.
“So you add to this dichotomy of opinion, the ever-present disease of political posturing and political agendas and opportunistic rhetoric and no wonder the American people are a bit impatient and frustrated at this time. So I want to take a moment and commend our governor DeSantis. I don't believe there's another governor that's worked harder that has been more successful and more effective in their state at trying to find a balanced approach between these two opposing viewpoints.
“In the areas that needed it, he has been able to have stricter controls, but he's done a great job, I think in having Florida support local governments to do what they think is best for their own counties. Because of this balanced approach, Florida's going to weather this storm as it has so many other storms in the past. And so I think that our governor and those that he allows to advise him are to be commended for this.
“So scripture tells me. I'm supposed to love my neighbor. But how do I love my neighbor, right now? I think first, I don't infect them. I start there and so let me illustrate.
“I've grown up in a family that enjoyed guns- very comfortable with guns and so it's no surprise that now that I'm grown, I get to enjoy the Second Amendment each and every day. But even with my comfort when I went to go get a concealed carry license, I had to demonstrate a proficiency in that firearm. Because there's this enormous responsibility of life and death when it comes to carrying a concealed weapon. And this is something I take very seriously,
“So as we look at this virus, I think we all need to recognize that potentially each of us carry this concealed weapon, and may not even know it. Asymptomatic infection is frequent with this virus -- to what degree we still don't know -- and I think instead of spending so much time focusing on how I can protect myself from others, maybe if I spent more time thinking and focusing on how I protected others from myself, this would be a good start in loving my neighbor.
“Terms like “self-isolate,” “shelter in place,” “social distancing,” which you see even on the printouts here in our seating to make sure we're not sitting by each other. These terms. I think for me are more and more synonymous with loving my neighbor. So with personal responsibility and honor for our fellow Americans, I don't think this has to be about big government versus big business.
“I don't think this has to be partisan, as much as it needs to have more to do with this space that says, “I care about you and I respect you as a fellow American enough that I'm going to not come near you.” Because I care about you. I'm not going to come near you right now not yet not until this is over and if we were able to do that. I think we would have significant curtailing of a lot of this infection.
“So as we look as a county, we don't know what this week is going to bring. We have no idea (about) next week, or how long this is going to happen in our country, but I know with a steadfast reliance on Almighty God, and with a care and a love for each other, we can get on the other side of this quicker if we work together, than if we work apart.
“So, Hernando County as neighbors, let's do our part to take good care of each other at this time.”
Commissioner Steve Champion remarked that obviously, no one wants to spread the virus, but is very concerned about the “major economic downturn” caused by actions designed to prevent it. “It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my life. I’m talking to businesses, there were last week, in business, thriving, this week, they have no work. Zero.”
Champion also commented that some businesses may not qualify for economic assistance, as they employ “1099” employees, or independent contractors, rather than traditional employees.
“Restaurants, bars, everyone’s out of work. No one’s doing anything ...That favorite restaurant or that massage therapist or hairdresser -- those people are really struggling right now, so if you have the means, we should try to help them as much as much as possible.”
Champion added, “I don't want to get political but I have to at least talk about this. I have to condemn what the Democrats are doing in the house to try to add all the pork on to this bill, you know, this stuff they're adding on what why can't we just both agree to just go after and help these people and leave all the other stuff aside.”
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb added, “We have 186,000 people in this county and I think we're at seven people that we know of infected. But thousands … are out of work or no longer drawing a paycheck, or a paycheck just- nowhere near the paycheck that they're accustomed to fulfill their budgetary needs.”
To Mitten, Holcomb said, “You use two words, chairman : ‘fear and anxiety.’ Those aren't good terms to make government policy after … you want to make the most calm, rational decision that benefits the greatest amount of people.”
Like his fellow members, Commissioner John Allocco also commended Mitten on his eloquence and added that he also praised Governor DeSantis’ approach of allowing county governments to make decisions for their locales. “Why do we have 67 counties in Florida rather than just one big state with one government? It's because each area is different, and I think when we look at this in the time right now, when we look at areas that are having a maybe a large community spread versus some of the counties in Florida that have no cases at all -- our governor is doing the right thing and and keeping it localized.”