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Damned if you do …

To the Journal editor:

I feel sorry for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer who is between a rock and a hard place. She follows the science and knows what needs to be done in Michigan to help curb the current COVID-19 surge which rivals that experienced in December.

Vaccination protects some of the elderly and others at risk who can be most severely affected, but 60% of citizens over 16 have not been vaccinated, as well as 30% of those over 65.

She knows that we should roll back indoor dining, enforce mask wearing in public, and limit in-person school and youth sports until infection rates subside.

Epidemiologists and physicians, also following the science, criticize her for not treating this surge more aggressively. The current response of Michigan to our recent surge even prompted a reaction by the director of the CDC who said the solution for the current situation is for the state to close things down.

On the other hand, she has been fought at every turn by a majority-Republican legislature that has complained that her approach has consistently been too heavy-handed.

Even elected members of her own party, like state Rep. Sara Cambensy, have voiced similar objections. Elected officials at local levels have refused to enforce state orders. Ordinary citizens have thumbed their nose at epidemic orders and proceed as if there were nothing to worry about.

So why is the governor asking, but not ordering, that the public take a two-week break from indoor dining, in-person high school and youth sports? Why is she falling back and asking everybody to step up and to take personal responsibility here rather than issuing a directive? I have a theory.

I think the governor knows that if she were to order a stricter approach, a large portion of the populace will ignore it and officials charged with enforcement will not implement it. The governor knows her ignored directive would serve only to make her look ineffective.

A sizeable part of the population view restrictions as a violation of their personal freedom — they feel they have the “right” to decide on the amount of risk they take. Viewed from the societal standpoint however, this is an entitlement — a license to put others at risk.

Ignoring the recommendations has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of fellow U.S. citizens and, unfortunately, that continues to this day.

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