By Steve Hunley

Recently the Knoxville News-Sentinel published a nice little article that was more editorial than news story in covering the Knox County Commission’s discussion of whether or not to dissolve the Board of Health.  The reporter covering the spectacle of the Commissioners arguing over the Board of Health was underscored by noting approximately seven people had died every day while the commission dithered.  Very frankly, the action or inaction of the Knox County Commission on this particular issue doesn’t make any difference.  None.  It is absolutely meaningless.  It is mighty interesting this is the same newspaper who published a gallery of twenty plus photographs showing the vibrant nightlife inside the City of Knoxville, young people standing in clusters, not socially distanced nor wearing masks.  The City of Knoxville has done virtually nothing to protect citizens during the pandemic.  Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has said little about the COVID-19 virus pandemic save to chastise county Mayor Glenn Jacobs there was “no prize” for being the first to reopen businesses.  When have you heard any member of the Knoxville City Council say a blessed thing about COVID policy or enforcing mask mandates?  Never.   Not a single utterance has been made to my knowledge.  Only now do we hear the City is beginning to fine businesses that have been violating the 10 p.m. curfew, one at least ten times.

Yet here are the commissioners trifling over whether Knox County has a Board of Health like it is a life or death issue.  I can tell you with certainty, there would have been no fewer deaths in this county, irrespective of what the county commission did or did not do with regard to the Board of Health.  Neither the Commissioners, nor the News-Sentinel or much of anybody else seems to realize virtually every restaurant (all that serve alcohol) and every bar have been annexed into the City of Knoxville.  That is not only a valid point, but a vital point, yet the Commissioners continue to chase their tails.  I don’t think it matters whether we have a Board of Health so long as we have a medical professional in charge of the Health Department.  State law says all of the powers held by a Board of Health would devolve upon Dr. Martha Buchanan without a board.  Would Knox Countians be in mortal danger without a Board of Health.  No, absolutely not.  Dr. Buchanan, as far as I can tell, has been utterly professional in her conduct of her office.

We have had at least one member of the Board of Health propose a resolution attempting to extend the board’s regulations beyond our area.  There is no basis in state law to allow for such a thing.  It kind of helps when someone occupying an office understands that particular office’s or department’s limitations under the law, not to mention reality.

It is well past time for us as a country and community to stop politicizing the coronavirus.  Let’s be honest, neither the left nor the right has a spotless record on this issue.  Yes, the virus really is a thing and should be taken seriously, especially with the news a new strain of the virus (which is reportedly more infectious) has broken out in England.  The Left has presumed to tell everybody else what to do, how to behave, folks not wearing masks just don’t care about their fellow human beings, all the while ignoring protesters and rioters not socially distanced or wearing masks.  We have seen all too many instances of leftist governors and mayors locking down businesses while eating in high priced eateries without masks.  Is it any wonder some of the right don’t take the threat seriously when they see public officials acting like that, apparently unconcerned?  I understand the need to keep the economy growing, especially as we spend money as a nation we don’t have.  Leftists seem not to understand the connection between businesses being open in order to pay taxes to local, state and federal governments, as well as employing people with those things called “jobs.”  Both taxes and jobs are necessary and while I understand those on the Left view the government as a provider for folks, there has to be revenue for them to spend before everything comes crashing down about our collective heads.

Neither the News-Sentinel nor the county commission have acknowledged the fact the City of Knoxville is where most of these businesses are located; neither the News-Sentinel nor the members of the Knox County Commission have held the City government accountable for their own actions or lack thereof.

Does it really make a any difference what the Knox County Board of Health does or doesn’t do when a person can walk into any grocery store without wearing a mask?  Is the issue really whether we have a Board of Health when we see folks strolling around grocery stores without wearing masks?  And has the Board of Health done such a whiz-bang of a job that we are apparently the hottest spot in the country, at least as it relates to the COVID virus?

I recently saw where bars and restaurants accounted for only 2% of the COVID cases in New York.  The one thing we ALL require is food, whether it is delivered to our front doors or we go out and get it ourselves.  Young and old, rich and poor, heavy or skinny, black, white, yellow or brown, we all must eat.  Wear your mask in grocery stores.

It is astonishing to me the county commission has been quibbling for so long over an issue that really doesn’t matter, while ignoring a much bigger issue that does matter.  It annoys me that opinion leaders in this community have bounced up and down on the county government while completely ignoring the lack of responsible action by the city leadership and government.  I’m almost embarrassed to use the word “leadership” in the same sentence with the city government as that has been nonexistent.  Just like the fact nobody seems to want to hold the city government accountable while folks fuss over a Board of Health.

What DOES matter in a community is ENFORCEMENT.  Without that, a panel of experts, real or imagined, doesn’t have much effect.