Online meetings via Zoom and social media live video feeds have increased the viewerships of City and County Commission meetings, as well as State press conferences.
People are watching their elected officials like never before.
And in the sidebar of the city and county meetings aired on Facebook are comments from viewers popping up in live time. Some comments are encouraging, some are questions and some are downright rude and overly critical. It’s easy to post a harsh comment from the comfort of your home and with little retribution.
For good or for bad, it’s the unfortunate nature of social media.
But after writing more than 100 articles about how Alachua County, city municipalities and the governor are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have come to appreciate even more the fact that local officials are dealing with the crisis in real time and are experiencing the same fears and loss of family moments as the rest of us.
During Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ briefing on Sunday (April 26th) he mentioned what it has been like welcoming a baby into the world during COVID-19, possibly the biggest event he will manage in his career.
“It’s been surreal,” he said. “I’m in the hospital with my wife,” he said. “Then talking to the president.” “We have the baby, hold the baby and, an hour or two later, I’m back to this. We lived through it,” he said about how the pandemic has taken over many of our lives and minimized moments that should be cherished such as welcoming a child into the world.
In a recent Alachua County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Chair Robert Hutchinson mentioned that he is not sure if he will ever see his parents alive again. Hutchinson cannot visit them because long-term healthcare facilities are prohibiting visitors due to the vulnerability that elderly people with underlying health issues have proven to have to COVID-19.
“I’m wondering if I’ll ever be in the same room as my parents again,” Hutchinson said during the comments portion of a recent meeting, and then described how he uses an outdoor shower at his home before entering because he has a family member with a compromised immune system and he worries about bringing in any germs.
Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe was hands on two weeks ago, placing senior portrait signs on the front lawn of Newberry City Hall. Marlowe is also a history teacher at Newberry High School (NHS) who misses teaching in person and beyond that was really hoping that he could shake the hands and give hugs to the members of the NHS Class of 2020 at graduation. After all the mantra of Newberry is “Once a Panther, Always a Panther.”
We should all remember that while elected officials are making serious decisions on our behalf, they are also making those same decisions for themselves, for their children, for their parents and for generations to come.
Agree or disagree with their actions or their ideology, they are essential personnel in this crisis, and they are people too.