Educate, don’t mandate

Since early 2020, the people in Marion County, like others throughout the state, have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. While we have experienced the loss of loved ones and continue to help others who are ill to recover, the people of Marion County have also demonstrated resilience and commitment to the community. 

We’ve seen community members volunteer to help others through wildfires, ice storms and historic heat waves, all while also facing the realities of the pandemic. Through these challenging times, I’ve watched as our local public health officials, county and city leaders, and many community partners have worked tirelessly to get PPE into the hands of our residents and visitors. Our local leaders have collaborated with state officials to ensure vaccines are available to every person in Marion County who choose to get one.

As the elected Sheriff of Marion County, I am sworn to protect its 345,000 residents who are spread across 1,182 square miles. I recognize the many diverse communities that make up Marion County have their own unique needs, values and beliefs, something I value greatly. With this diversity in mind, I find it necessary to express how important it is we have the ability at the local level to develop a response that fits the needs of our community members.

As a resident of Marion County, I am confident in the ability of Marion County Health and Human Services to lead local response efforts to COVID-19. This confidence is vested in the proven ability of our local leaders to listen to our community members, assess our local capabilities, and ask for addition support when needed. This preserves our ability to continue to tailor our efforts to the specific needs of our residents and visitors.

My office committed to encouraging our community members to make educated decisions to protect the health and safety of our residents and visitors in Marion County. This is something we can accomplish, not through mandates, but with communication, compassion, and while respecting the different beliefs of our diverse community.

(Joe Kast is the Sheriff of Marion County.)