This coronavirus crisis has plenty of Americans on edge this week, as evidenced by some of the nasty, divisive infighting that we’re seeing on social media.
Facebook and Twitter are virtual minefields at this point, with any wayward comment capable of igniting an ugly, politically-motivated argument. Some think that we’re not doing nearly enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus while, on the other end of the spectrum, there are folks who believe that 5G cellphone towers are secretly activating the virus in order to create mass casualties.
This is the danger of the internet, in that many folks out there will fall for just about anything they read.
But social media isn’t the only place that disagreements over the severity of the crisis are blossoming. Some of these arguments are occurring within the halls of local government.
A small coastal city in Georgia that thrives on tourism closed its beach, fearing carefree crowds of teenagers and college students posed too great a risk for spreading the new coronavirus. Two weeks later, the state’s governor reversed that decision, saying people weathering the outbreak need fresh air and exercise.
The clash has thrust tiny Tybee Island, east of Savannah, into a thorny debate that keeps cropping up during the coronavirus pandemic: How much can officials curtail freedoms during the crisis? And should those calls be made at the federal, state or local level?
Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions, sworn in barely three months ago, has taken on Gov. Brian Kemp after state officials on Friday reopened the beach in the community of 3,100 people. The beach typically operates with city-funded lifeguards, police patrols and trash cleanup.
Here’s where it gets ugly.
The change resulted from the Republican governor’s order that people statewide should “shelter in place” – that is, they should stay home unless working jobs deemed essential, seeking medical care, shopping for groceries, or other exceptions including exercising outdoors. It also invalidated any restrictions already imposed by local governments if they went beyond the governor’s limits.
That meant a unanimous decision by Tybee Island’s city council to close its beach was suddenly overridden, and Sessions said the governor’s office declined to reconsider when asked. Her blunt, public rebuttal to what she called the governor’s “reckless mandate” drew attention far beyond her small coastal home.
Sessions blasted Kemp in an open letter, reminding the Governor the the Pentagon was ordering “100,000 body bags” while he was seemingly concerned with the state’s tourism revenue.
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