Opinion: Commentary: Stay Vigilant to Fight COVID

Opinion: Commentary: Stay Vigilant to Fight COVID

One of the most important and meaningful elections in history has just concluded and I am happy that so many people in our Mount Vernon and Lee community turned out and had their voices heard and votes counted. I want to thank everyone for working very hard to prepare for and run the election, and for those that campaigned for their candidates. It is always heartening to see so many people give of their valuable time and treasure to make this process work as well as it does. We can all be proud of our vibrant democracy in action.

As I write this I do not yet know the results of the election but I am sure that Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris won here in a big way. The yard signs alone were a strong clue.

Nevertheless, life goes on and it is time to turn our attention to the upcoming General Assembly session with the drafting of bills and meetings with constituents.

However, we still have one more day to return to Richmond, albeit virtually, to reconvene from the special session that just ended to consider Governor Northam’s amendments and any vetoes, though unlikely, to our passed legislation and our budget changes.

So, in continuation of our historic 60-day virtual session which recessed last month, we now know that we will return to session this upcoming Monday, Nov. 9. Governor Northam has signed 40 of the bills passed by both the House and Senate and made recommendations to eleven pieces of legislation, including Delegate Hope’s HB 5058, which my colleagues and I asked to be amended to ensure law enforcement officers may stop a vehicle driving without headlights or brake lights, as that is a dangerous malfunction. The bill is important because pretextual stops where police pull over a motorist for something minor like an equipment violation is used too often to stop and search Black motorists much more than drivers of other races, and with little effect on crime according to many studies. I do worry about issues like noise pollution now that cars can’t be targeted solely for noise, though the noisy vehicles still need to pass inspection and can be cited if pulled over for another more serious offenses. But, if one person’s life is saved from one fewer interaction with the police, then this is a small price to pay. Moreover, there are other more effective ways to combat the noise issue. Indeed, the law now is not working well enough.

Most importantly, as we approach the winter months when the cold weather will make physical distancing inevitably harder we must stay vigilant in wearing our masks and avoiding large gatherings. I encourage everyone to get your annual flu vaccinations to decrease the risk of contracting the flu, which combined with coronavirus can be very dangerous. As of this week, we have surpassed 9 million COVID cases in the United States and over 230,000 deaths since March. Cases and deaths continue to rise around the country each day. 38 states, including Virginia, currently have uncontrolled spread, with others trending poorly, and hospitals in several cities are overflowing, including in El Paso, Texas, where they built outdoor tents to house COVID patients.

COVID exhaustion is very real: it is tiresome to continue precautions, to put off plans, cancel events, and skip celebrating holidays with family and friends. However, until we have a vaccine, the virus will continue to infect people regardless of whether we are tired of taking precautions or not. To continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities, we must follow CDC guidelines by wearing our masks, washing our hands, and physical distancing. So, please continue to be vigilant and stay safe and try to relax now that that momentous, all-consuming, presidential election is over.

Take a deep breath and enjoy a break from politics. We are all in this together and need to treat each other with respect, dignity, and love.