Open letter from Commission Chair Harold Jenkins urges calm

What are we doing to ourselves?
Among dozens of angry emails and social media posts since the Martin County Commission’s unanimously approved face-mask mandate this week was this email from Martin County Commission Chair Harold Jenkins. Instead of waiting another week to publish in Martin County Currents, the letter seemed most appropriate to send out immediately to Currents subscribers. Please feel free to forward to others.

To the Editor:

Did I miss something? Am I – and my conservative Republican friends and acquaintances – really being excommunicated from the Republican Party over our support for wearing masks in public places?

I must admit, I have curtailed my viewing of all sources of news media, because of their mixed messaging and partisanship; however, prior to doing that, I watched an interview with our President about masks and his reluctance to wear them.

Most of the time, those around the President are constantly tested, and there is no need to wear a mask, but … he stated emphatically, “If I go somewhere that social distancing is an issue, I do wear a mask.” Whether he does or doesn’t, I don’t know, but that’s what he said.

My hope is that the loud, uncivil, anti-mask folks are not representative of the Republican Party, because that’s the message most are taking away from our recent public meetings. That’s not us, and not the way we conservatives have acted historically.

If I missed something, though, let me know, because that’s not who I am.

The extremists are about 10 percent on the far right and far left. These outliers are the loudest of the uncivil on BOTH sides of any issue, and for years, my conservative friends have complained that these extremists have taken over the Democratic Party to the point of violence and destruction of property.

Now, I have the same question about members within our own Republican party.

Are some of our Republican extremists now so loud, so obnoxious, that our citizens are afraid to stand up for the simple matter of wearing a face mask? If bullying to get their way is unacceptable behavior on the Democratic side of the spectrum, it’s just as unacceptable on the Republican side.

With all that said, does this COVID situation make sense? In a lot of ways it does not, especially as to how the numbers are reported. But is the disease real? Absolutely!

Is there definitive proof that face masks help and, if so, how much? The answer is, depends on who you listen to.

I choose to listen to our local medical doctors. If there is a CHANCE that wearing a mask will slow the progression of this disease, I’m all in with both feet! And duty bound to consider it.

My aim is to protect our businesses from being shut down again, which is now beginning to happen in Miami-Dade County. Our numbers are not much better, if at all. I also aim to protect all our citizens’ health.

When I look at my one-month-old granddaughter, I know I want to try to protect her from a disease for which we have no idea of its long-lasting effects. It’s also how I feel about protecting my friends and employees who have an immune deficiency of some sort, as well as the elderly.

And the list goes on and on.

I’ve also been told that we all need to just get infected and get over it. Herd immunity! Well, even at our current rate of infection, it would be a 4-5 year process, and with a 1% mortality rate, it could mean as many as 1,600 (unnecessary) dead people in Martin County.

Although that number could also be considerably less, ANY unnecessary deaths are unacceptable, even if they died “with underlying conditions.” They died before their time any way you look at it.

We all have people we care about that are far more susceptible to experiencing serious effects from this disease then we would ourselves. I’m not alone in that, I’m sure. Is it really too much to ask to don a mask for the 20 minutes you’re in the grocery store to at least ATTEMPT to protect others, even if we don’t have absolute, definitive proof to everyone’s satisfaction that it makes a difference?

Again, I can’t think of a time in my almost 60 years I didn’t take the advice of my doctors seriously. Their advice to me now to stay healthy and protect others is to ask as many people as possible – and who are able – to wear a face covering.

This seems to be one of the most reasonable requests anyone could ask.

Maybe my view on this subject is different than many others, because I’m acutely aware of people who have experienced the impact of this virus – from my own employees who had to be quarantined for weeks, to a survivor who spent days on a ventilator, to one dear, elderly friend who passed away before her time.

Can we all please calm down, wear a mask in public, and focus our energy in a positive direction? I hope the answer is, Yes! We can do this!

Thanks for listening.


Harold Jenkins, Chairman

Martin County Commission