St. Cloud, area cities affirm personal responsibility over mandates to fight virus

No sooner had St. Cloud and three nearby cities declined to implement a six-week mask mandate last week than the health care provider behind the rejected request “doubled down,” as the Star Tribune headline put it. The cities’ mayors made it clear they support CentraCare’s objective to slow the spread of the spread of the Omicron variant through masks and other measures, but not by means of a mandate, the heavy-handed tactic preferred by the health provider.

In a move evidently timed to emphasize its disappointment with local leaders, the St. Cloud-based health care system launched something of a PR blitz.

After a plea to city leaders to implement indoor mask mandates failed to gain traction last week, CentraCare leaders are issuing an urgent request to St. Cloud-area business leaders and residents.

Mayors from St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park did agree to jointly ask to wear masks when indoors and some cities and counties — including Waite Park, Benton County and Stearns County — have adopted resolutions requiring employees or visitors to wear masks in government buildings.

For CentraCare leaders, that action isn’t enough. So on Thursday, the health care system released another plea via video to area businesses and residents asking people to wear masks indoors whenever they are not with members of their immediate family — and to encourage others to do so, too.

The video features Dr. George Morris, the health care provider’s “COVID-19 incident commander.”

“What we are looking at now is a case where we need 2 to 6 weeks of intensive treatment of intense action and intense decisions by everybody in our community and this includes leaders and policymakers. We’re looking at the decision to save 1,100 lives of Minnesotans.”

“…This is our time to gather together. This is not a time to be divisive. This is a time to think what does our community need.”

It’s not clear if CentraCare intended to rachet up public pressure on the mayors to reconsider their decision and reverse course on a mandate. If so, a letter to the editor signed by the four mayors in the St. Cloud Times only served to underscore their view of the vital importance of constituents taking personal responsibility to protect the community’s health and wellbeing, rather than relying on government mandates.

We are privileged to live in a country and in a community where our freedoms are protected and cherished. However, with privilege comes responsibility – a responsibility that goes far beyond that of the individual. Each of us has an affirmative duty, during this public health crisis, to do our utmost to protect our individual health, and the health and safety of our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum, Sauk Rapids Mayor Kurt Hunstinger and Waite Park Mayor Rick Miller may not support imposing mask mandates on principle, as well as due to the impracticality of enforcing them. But when it comes down to it, they do expect residents to act in their own best interest and that of their community.

We may differ on how we ask you to help our communities but we don’t differ on the fact that we need everyone’s help!  Please protect yourself and those around you by wearing a face mask through this surge. Let’s unite on this please!