**Now that I have your attention, if your jaw dropped and your wallet screamed when you thought about your property taxes going up 30 percent, why would you NOT react that same way to a 30 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in our community in September?
What if the number of traffic deaths rose 30 percent in one month? Or the number of drug overdoses rose 30 percent? Could you call that “flattened” with a straight face?
I ask these questions because Livingston County Commissioner Wes Nakagiri thinks our community’s COVID-19 numbers — which rose by 30 percent overall in September — have “flattened,” and he’s pushing for mask mandates for visitors in Livingston County buildings to become voluntary.
Based on Commissioner Nakagiri’s theory that a 30 percent increase is “flattened,” he’s pushing to have us depend on the kindness of strangers to remain safe from COVID-19 in Livingston County’s buildings. Presumably, county buildings include our courthouses, the jail, the east complex (which houses the drain commissioner and the health department), the animal shelter, the airport, EMS, 911 Central Dispatch, maybe even the LETS buses. County buildings serve a lot of county residents and employ a lot of them, too. Why, when the science proves masks keep us safe, does Commissioner Nakagiri want to make us less so.
Does this make sense to you as Livingston County’s numbers — like those in Michigan and across the U.S. — are on the rise?
Consider, too, as Nakagiri starts the slow march to a mask-less community, that September’s 30 percent increase comes on the heel’s of a nearly 44 percent increase in number of COVID-19 cases in August.
If I were a cynical person, I’d say Commissioner Nakagiri thinks we’re a bunch of dopes.
For those of you who prefer math to political stunts and spin, here is how Livingston County fared on the COVID-19 front in September: The percentage of cases rose 30 percent overall.
And the groups that saw the greatest increase are our young people.
The number of cases for those 20-29 rose 49 percent — from 165 at the beginning of September to 246 at the end. And the number of cases for those under 20 rose nearly 34 percent — from 215 at the beginning of September to 287 at the end. This means that on Sept. 30, there were 533 people in our community under the age of 20 who now have a pre-existing condition that will be with them the rest of their lives.
Think about that: 533 people under the age of 30 — about the number of souls inside the average Livingston County elementary school on any given day — are now having to deal with COVID-19.
So, I have to ask Commissioner Nakagiri to explain to us how — in just the month of September — a rise of 49 percent and 34 percent in our two youngest age groups — and 30 percent across all age groups — is anywhere near being “flattened”?
If your taxes went up 30 percent, Commissioner Nakagiri, would you shrug your shoulders and open your wallet?
While COVID-19 and property taxes are apples and oranges, a 30 percent increase is a 30 percent increase.
The door for Nakagiri opened a crack when the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the law under which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a series of COVID-19 restrictions in the form of Executive Orders.
Commissioner Nakagiri was on WKAR’s “Off The Record” with Tim Skubick recently, and there’s been some social media yakking about Nakagiri’s inability to denounce the Proud Boys during his interview. While I didn’t find that noteworthy, my ears perked up when Nakagiri said he thinks decisions on COVID-19 restrictions should be made county-by-county. (I guess he’s looking at how successful the every-state-for-itself strategy has worked in the U.S. now that over 210,000 people are dead, a number greater than the entire population of Livingston County.)
Then, a couple days later, Commissioner Nakagiri’s subcommittee advanced a resolution on a 4-0 vote that will make the wearing of masks for visitors to Livingston County’s buildings optional.
Sounds like these commissioners are heading down the path to turn Livingston County into the recent super spreading White House territory that resulted in the president, guests at the event, and a lot of the White House staff testing positive for COVID-19.
Think that’s unlikely to happen here? Apparently, the Livingston County GOP, which has had a virtual stranglehold on our county government for years, thinks COVID-19 is either a Democrat hoax or not all that dangerous.
Check out these pictures of Saturday’s Trump Road Rally in Howell, which took place ironically as the president was at Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment of COVID-19. You’ll see the creme de la creme of Livingston County’s Republican political elite — from our state legislators to our county officials to the Republican congressional candidate, and everyone in between — whooping it up like it was 1999. Or like they are at the White House welcoming a Supreme Court nominee. And I’ve been able to identify just one mask in the group. (There might be more, but I don’t see them. If you find more than one, please let me know.)
When it comes down to it, maybe we should make the use of car seats for kids voluntary. Or seatbelts. Or texting while driving. Maybe we can make shirts and shoes optional in restaurants. Maybe Commissioner Nakagiri can figure out a way to also repeal no smoking laws in the county’s public buildings.
This move is reminiscent of how Nakagiri led the charge to eliminate insurance coverage for elective abortion for Livingston County’s non-union employees, arguably the least powerful people in county government. It’s how he gets it done: chip, chip, chipping away, bottom up. And who am I to pick nits with his approach because, so far, he’s been successful.
The resolution goes before the Livingston County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. And you can express your opinion: Nakagiri has asked for feedback on the proposal. Of course, he’s only asked his Facebook friends (unless I missed the press release), but I’ve got the info for you here if you want to provide our county officials your view of the issue.
And I’d skip using the firstname.lastname@example.org address as Commissioner Nakagiri suggests as it likely goes to a general mailbox to be seen first by a non-elected person. When I make my opinion known, I like to make sure it gets right to the person responsible, so I’ve provided you links below.
District 1: Kate Lawrence (who, as a member of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor). Email her here.
District 2: William Green (who, as a member of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor). Email him here.
District 3: Wes Nakagiri (who, as chairman of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor) — email him here.
District 4: Douglas Helzerman — email him here.
District 6: Robert Bezotte — email him here.
District 7: Carol S. Griffith — email her here.
District 8: Jerome Gross (who, as a member of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor) — no contact info available
District 9: Gary Childs — email him here.
And while you ponder all that, here is the LivPo’s month-end chart of COVID-19 cases in the community, which looks anything but flat: