No person has the right to willingly expose another to a pandemic, or place the public at potential risk.

Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair Tootie Smith continues to disappoint. Smith's attempts to change what should be a public health crisis driven by a worldwide pandemic into a civil rights issue are misguided and dangerous. One need look no further than Texas and Florida, where COVID-19 cases and deaths have exploded, to understand the degree to which Smith's approach to the pandemic risks the health and lives of Clackamas County residents.

Smith appears to be just another one of the civil rights contingent that fails to understand that no civil right is exclusive or exists in isolation. With civil rights come responsibilities. The exercise of any civil right does not include the right to impair another's civil rights. No person has the right to willingly expose another to this deadly pandemic. And no person has the exclusive right of placing the public at potential risk simply in defiance of an act proven to be an effective preventive (mask wearing).

The governor's efforts to ensure containment of this deadly virus through minimally inconvenient means such as mask wearing in indoor public places is a responsible step. The governor has also promoted vaccinations against COVID, an effective measure supported by medical experts everywhere. In addition to placing the public at risk, Smith's defiance places an unnecessary burden on the medical community. And her apparent direction of the county sheriff to not enforce the law is unconscionable.

This is not a civil rights issue. This is a public health issue. Patriotic Americans do the right things to protect the country and its citizens. Championing one's own civil rights at the expense of others is not patriotism. It is selfishness. Six hundred twenty-eight thousand Americans and nearly 4.5 million worldwide are dead from COVID. Smith is promoting selfish behavior at the expense of the lives of Americans. Smith is dead wrong in her approach to this pandemic.

R. Kent Squires is a Milwaukie resident

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