“It’s not anecdotal; it’s real. And if you put yourself in a situation outside of your circle then you are risking the spread of COVID.”
— Ripon City Attorney Lud Wurtz
Area clergy recently discussed how requests for them to officiate at local weddings and funerals are putting themselves and others at risk as groups of people from Ripon, Green Lake and beyond are convening to celebrate marriages and grieve lost loved ones.
This concern is delicate. It’s difficult to ignore or delay personal, once-in-a-lifetime milestones that are so monumentally important to families and friends. Yet lives are at stake and the more we gather in groups, the more we put the people we care about most, including out pastors, at risk.
Last week Wisconsin became the national epicenter of the pandemic. Hospitals in the northeast side of the state are nearing capacity and have a shortage of trained staff. The four U.S. metropolitan areas with the worst outbreaks are Oshkosh, Green Bay, Appleton and Pine Bluff, Ark. Beaver Dam has been identified as a community in crisis. It’s all around us.
Here in Ripon, it’s starting to hit us hard. A restaurant temporarily had to shut down. This newspaper’s office has had to close to the public. Friends and family all around us are contracting COVID. Most will survive. But who will draw the short straws?
All this and so much more, and yet a few of us still refuse to do all we can to help ourselves and those we love survive a ferocious, unforgiving, deadly pandemic. We’re not flattening the curve or “rounding the corner,” yet sadly, some of us in Ripon still are living in a state of denial.
Not Ripon College. It has done an incredible job of preparing and implementing a plan to protect students: discouraging them from leaving the campus except to go to work; allowing no one on campus without permission; requiring masks inside and out; and avoiding large gatherings by keeping classes small, distanced and masked. The only chink in its armor was its decision last week to permit college retirees to visit Willmore Athletic Center, despite them being no less contagious and arguably more vulnerable than other, younger community members who rightly are restricted from entering.
Likewise, responsible city of Ripon officials and others filling the Common Council chambers last week had to endure the smirk of an unmasked Ald. Benjamin Morrison as aldermen revisited a COVID policy for city personnel they had passed last March, but that has since expired. It calls for requiring “all staff and elected officials to wear cloth coverings inside city of Ripon facilities.”
City officials will revisit the policy Tuesday, Oct. 13 after amendments are made. But in the meantime, it is astounding that Morrison would so flagrantly violate an advisory policy that had been in force and will be again, and that the city has made clear it expects its staff to follow. Morrison, nor anyone else, should be allowed inside City Hall without a mask and should be required to wear it for the duration of their visit.
Almost all of our city leaders have been conscientious, serious and thoughtful. And with one exception they have set an example for the rest of us.
Leaders model good behavior out of respect for their co-workers, staff they oversee and the public. Morrison’s example is an affront to the notions of leadership, decorum, common sense and responsibility to others.
It’s time we all take care of everyone — be they pastors, retirees, colleagues or the public.
— Tim Lyke