There are three things anyone should be able to do to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus:
1. Wear a mask.
2. Stay home if someone in the family might be contagious.
3. Cooperate with public health officials tracing the virus’ spread.
Certainly some folks have conditions that prevent mask wearing. Unfortunately many Americans don’t have the type of job flexibility needed to take several days of surprise sick leave. But there’s literally no impediment to contact tracing compliance, and yet that work remains an uphill battle.
Last week, McHenry County Department of Health spokeswoman Lindsey Salvatelli said 16.1% of people contact tracers sought in September were unresponsive. In October it was 28.4%. Those percentages aren’t as bad throughout Illinois, but other counties have hit similar roadblocks in recent months.
“Without complete information ... we don’t get a full picture,” Salvatelli said. “It’s definitely not helping the situation and making it difficult for our case investigators.”
Contact tracing helps locate where outbreaks begin and alert potentially exposed people to prevent further spread. It’d be handy if COVID-19 turned human skin green instantly after an exposure, but the disease spreads efficiently by finding hosts who don’t know they’re infected.
The government can’t compel compliance, but it shouldn’t have to do anything but ask. This information is being sought in the name of public health and getting our lives back to something resembling normal. Effective treatments and vaccines would be fantastic, but those are specialty solutions as opposed to basic actions everyday people can take because we should be considerate of our neighbors.
Unfortunately, that ship sailed long ago. On the same day Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike fought back tears discussing the mounting death toll, state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, was in Utica as part of a tour undercutting state restrictions by asserting the governor is intentionally destroying the state economy in order to get federal bailout funds.
Set aside the fact Congress has made it clear there’s no rush to approve another useful relief package, rhetoric like Bailey’s only foments further refusal to cooperate with contact tracers and mask requirements.
Why not put energy toward useful solutions? Take Mundelein, where the Village Board recently deployed a $150,000 matching grant program to help businesses afford things like tents and heaters to make outdoor service viable as winter arrives. It’s one of many programs that could serve as inspiration for people willing to work toward solutions.
Beating coronavirus isn’t easy or cheap. But effort and money won’t help enough when people would rather fight than pull together. Everyone craves normalcy, but demanding it without being willing to do the work to get there only sets back the cause.
• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at email@example.com.