Union County’s Democratic minority commissioner chided her majority Republican colleagues for failing to include a recommendation in a proclamation for frontline healthcare workers and emergency responders that the public follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines.

Commissioner Stacy Richards said an addendum she sought to add to the proclamation was rejected. She wished to add a reference to the federal agency’s guidelines that people wear a face mask, wash their hands and maintain social distance.

“I am disappointed by and ashamed of my colleagues’ fear to join me in further resolving this resolution to request that all county residents simply follow the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 guidelines,” Richards said during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Commissioner Chair Preston Boop, Commissioner Jeff Reber and Richards all voted in favor of the proclamation without the addendum. The proclamation declares the week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 as Frontline Healthcare Workers and First Responders Week. The proclamation recognizes the work, risks and sacrifices taken by those responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Reber responded at the end of Richards’ remarks, saying “since the beginning, I’ve advocated that people follow CDC guidelines.” After the meeting, Reber reinforced his position.

“Ever since the spring I’ve supported everyone following the CDC guidelines,” Reber said before referring to health care workers and first responders. “They’ve put their own lives and families on the line to help our citizens. I thank them profusely from the bottom of my heart.”

Boop did not respond to Richards during the meeting and could not be reached for comment later Tuesday.

Richards cited the continued spread of COVID-19 locally, saying half of the 80 patients at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg on Tuesday were being treated for the disease. She said area hospitals are at capacity and that it’s impacting the respective facilities’ capabilities to treat other maladies.

The proclamation, which Richards ultimately supported, was simply one of words at a time when action is needed, she said. That it lacked a call for public action to abide by the CDC guidelines, she said, was an “abdication of the county commissioners’ emergency management responsibilities.”

“Wearing a mask is NOT a political statement. We have individual rights, but not the right to make others sick, harm our economy and shortchange our children’s education,” Richards said.

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