“When is it time to give the entire responsibility to the individual who is making the decision for themselves in a pandemic?”

Before I start, can you for a minute imagine Thomas Jefferson ever asking that question?

If you didn’t have a chance to listen in on the entirety of the Jefferson County Public Health Board meeting last Thursday—and, geez, I don’t know why you would—that was, to my mind, the one, most important, salient question asked in the whole meeting. A meeting which, if you haven’t heard, ended with the Board voting to end the mask mandate for the entire county on Feb. 18.

So many questions.

Why Feb. 18? That was the date proposed by one Board member who thought it an amicable compromise offer between what everybody kept saying—the 11th—and…. Nobody knows. Is Feb. 18 halfway between the 11th and never? Because nobody ever brought up the 25th, or, for that matter, any other date. The 18th came out of mid-air, and the rationalization for that was then the Board could be reassured about the trendline.

Where did the 11th come from? It became clear—only because it was said about 15 times in the meeting—that the 11th was the date that the JeffCO Schools personnel had asked for, to give them time to adapt. It is, however, strange to me that, literally, within hours of the health board coming to their conclusion, the school district put out a missive in which it encourages the health board to move their time frame up. Also, in the health board meeting, it was mentioned that the school district had been pushing for the 11th for some time now. Why does JeffCO Schools feel the need for such lead time when districts as large and diverse as Aurora and Cherry Creek were given just over two days to make their transitions? I don’t know.

Speaking of other districts, as one board member pointed out, “Tri-county removed the mask mandate Jan. 31, Denver is allowing it to expire today, Broomfield removed it today, Larimer County will end the mask mandate Feb. 12th ….” So, why is JeffCO so much later? That was not specifically addressed—except, perhaps, to point back to the school district—though that member did note that “… if Jefferson County does not do this, and all the other counties around us do, I think we’re in serious trouble.” She pointed to business going elsewhere, and to the deterioration of the appearance of solidarity with neighboring jurisdictions.

The overall rationale, the tone of the meeting, was one of caution—I would characterize it, perhaps, as tinged with fear. One board member admitted, “I support the older people, who are afraid to go out, which is one that’s easy for me to understand, because that’s the situation I’m in.” And the same board member later lamented that there seemed to be an inescapable erosion of the trust, by the public, of the board and the public health bureaucracy.

I can’t imagine why. As Bill Maher put it so succinctly Friday night, “How much wrong do you get to be while still holding the default setting for people who represent ‘the science?’”

The New York Times (not an anti-vax, anti-mask mouthpiece) put out a graphic last week charting the omicron wave, comparing states with mask mandates to states without such mandates. The graphs are nearly identical: from Nov. 1 through Dec. 20, non-mask states were actually slightly lower; at the peak of the wave, between Jan. 10 and 17, non-mask states had about a 16% higher case rate; by the first week of February, the two lines were one, diving towards zero faster than a Jamaican ski jumper. And then USA Today puts out a graphic showing that suicide and fentanyl overdoses have killed six times the number of 18- to 45-year olds as COVID.

Decisions are made by people who show up. Remember that in November.

Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.