The Saturday, July 17, 2021 Los Angeles Times features a prominent story about “obstinate” communities in which large numbers of people who are refusing to get Covid-19 vaccines are now spreading a more virulent strain of Coronavirus and stalling the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.
Mesa County and Grand Junction are mentioned several times in the article as among the places where large numbers of stubbornly unvaccinated people are posing a danger to the rest of the country.
How did we get here?
How we go from being known as Vacationland, U.S.A. to gaining national recognition as one of the most conspiracy-believing, vaccine-denying, disease-spreading, public-health flauting communities in the country?
It probably happened in large part because all three Mesa County Commissioners are Republicans, and two of them — Janet Rowland and Cody Davis — ran for election in 2020 using campaigns that pushed anti-public health conspiracy theories, pandemic denialism, anti-masking sentiments and skepticism of public health experts in order to get votes from their frightened, low-information constituency.
Commissioner Janet Rowland in particular relentlessly pushed Q-Anon-linked conspiracy theories on her campaign Facebook page while running for office. Rowland spread messages that undermined public health recommendations for how to stay safe and healthy amid the pandemic and how to slow spread of tCovid-19. Her posts urged people to dump masking, go back to work, and she told people that if they don’t get back to work then “Coronavirus wins.” Cody Davis posted articles on his social media that fueled skepticism towards public health experts. One his posts referred to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease and an expert on Covid-19 transmission as a “so-called technical expert” whose advice should be subjugated to the beliefs of far less knowledgeable elected officials.
The county commissioners also assumed they knew better than the public health experts when they prematurely removed all protections against the virus by ending the mask mandate and recommendations for physical distancing and eliminated capacity limits in indoor venues under their much-touted “Freedom to Choose” initiative.
So it is our Republican local elected officials who have brought us a long way towards where we are today, spreading a more infectious, deadly form of Coronavirus disease, to where young people are now the group that is most susceptible to Covid-19 in our community, to where Mesa County has earned scorn and ridicule from the rest of the nation and to where we are likely barreling straight into a sicker, more deadly fall and winter than we had last year.