A county commissioner in Bradley County, Tennessee, doesn't mince words when it comes to her position on the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent image that Fourth District Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak posted on her social media page expresses her opinion. It shows a sheep wearing a mask with a red crossbar across it.
"You can shove your new normal where the sun don't shine," it says, making clear she's not buying into much of the local and national response, which she says arouses fear and overreaction.
The Times Free Press recently asked Peak some questions about her position.
Q: Can you explain why you believe people are being duped and what you believe the response to the pandemic should be?
A: I believe the virus is real, that has never been in question. I also believe that our government leaders acted out of fear and haste to come up with a solution. At times the response has felt rushed and unprepared. It is difficult to plan for something so unprecedented, however, we should have known this day would come.
At worst some have taken the opportunity to use this crisis as a tool. Political and public pressure at times gave way to unreasonable and rushed policies that I believe unnecessarily damaged our economy. Rather than waiting for good information to become available they rushed to judgment.
Now as the state has become more "open" for weeks, we have not seen any significant spikes in cases of the virus. Other parts of the country have also experienced the same optimistic outcome.
Q: What about the recent spike of cases in Rhea County?
A: We are going to have more cases because of increased testing. Continue to use common sense when in public and live your life.
Q: What do you base your opinions on?
A: Mobility data shows that people started taking personal precautions long before government-mandated shutdowns began. This means most people are wise enough to take steps to protect themselves without the government stepping in to babysit. By and large, these shutdowns have done more to cause economic distress for families than it has to slow or stop the spread of the virus. The numbers we see increasing today are a result of increased testing. Even our state and national leaders have acknowledged that fact.
Q: What do you say to people who feel they should be taking precautions and practicing social distancing?
A: I respect everyone's ability to do what they feel is best to protect themselves and those they care about. I also respect those who don't feel they need to take additional precautions. This crisis has taught us a valuable lesson that some precautions are necessary regardless of the circumstances. We should all practice better hand washing. Individuals with pre-existing conditions, or a compromised immune system, should always take precautions. These things should be done, not just during a crisis like we find ourselves in, but always, to prevent sickness or death.
Q: Are Gov. Bill Lee and President Donald Trump wrong in their orders and recommendations?
A: History will tell! I don't fault them for struggling to find their way in unprecedented times. I do take issue with orders that seem to place constitutional rights on the back burner in the name of "Public Safety" without good information and data to back it up. Also, we are a big country, and a large state. I do not believe a "one size fits all" approach was fair to all concerned. I am hopeful that our leaders will learn from this crisis so we are able to respond better in the future.
Q: Do you practice social distancing in public places?
A: When needed, yes. I also do it, recognizing that even if I am comfortable, others may not be.
Q: Do you ever wear a mask?
A: I was wearing a mask before it was common. I see lots of dust and particles in my work as a builder. I am hoping that hard hats and tool belts will be the new fall fad! However, I do not wear one in public due to the virus. I don't believe the mask protects me or anyone else. If it's required in some areas then I comply or don't patronize those businesses.
Q: Are there any situations where you believe anyone should be wearing a mask or practicing social distancing?
A: In high risk locations like nursing homes, or around elderly family members. Also, in high density population areas like large cities. Also, when working with sick patients.
Q: Have you done a test for COVID-19?
A: No I have not.
Q: Do you know anyone who has tested positive for the virus?
A: I do not know anyone personally who has tested positive.
Q: What do you want people to know about your stance on the coronavirus pandemic?
A: This crisis has hurt. Unreasonable lockdowns and draconian measures have done more damage to our citizens than the virus could ever do. Bankruptcy, homelessness, drug overdoses, suicides and domestic violence are on the rise.
We now know that reasonable and common sense precautions can and do offer protection without government interference. We know how to shift our focus to stopping the bleeding when it comes to the economic impact we are seeing as a result of the virus. There is nothing wrong with trying to protect ourselves. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with the experts (who also seem to disagree with each other). What I think we can all agree on is the need for common sense and the opportunity to put our great economy back to work.
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.