Clackamas County chair-elect has signaled her intent to defy Gov. Kate Brown's order to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to six people from two households.

Finally, there's reason for hope with news this week that pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have developed vaccines with efficacy rates of 95% against COVID-19.

It's a turning point in the war against a vicious pandemic that has infected an estimated 55 million people worldwide and killed more than 1.3 million — 250,000 in the U.S. alone.

But the celebration can wait, because we're a long way from the finish line. Next comes approval of these vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration, followed by a logistical morass of manufacturing, distribution and finally administration of the vaccines to millions of people from coast to coast.

It could be months before these things happen. And in the meantime infections will continue, more people will become ill and the death toll will rise.

The realities of the ongoing pandemic make news out of Clackamas County this week all the more heartbreaking. In Clackamas County alone there were 86 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Nov. 17 and a total 4,745 cases and 75 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Despite those numbers, Tootie Smith, the incoming Clackamas County chair, posted on Facebook that she will defy Gov. Kate Brown's order to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to no more than six people from two households.

"My family will celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with as many family and friends as I can find," Smith wrote. "Gov Brown is WRONG to order otherwise."

No, it's Tootie Smith who's wrong.

Though elections for Clackamas County Commission are nonpartisan, Smith is a well-known and vocal conservative. In her defiance of Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, Smith is injecting partisan politics into a conversation that should focus entirely on science and protecting lives.

From the start of the pandemic, health-care professionals have endorsed social distancing and self quarantines as primary methods of preventing the spread of this virus. For a time it looked like Oregonians had turned the tide against the disease. Then came October and a resurgence of the virus.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 5,177 new cases of COVID-19 for the¬†week of Nov. 2-8 — up 46% from the previous week. It was the third consecutive week when daily case counts set a record high for the pandemic.

And yet, the person preparing to step into the highest elected office in Clackamas County has chosen to dismiss the trend, ignore respected scientists and physicians, all while saying she's willing to endanger her family, friends and those they come into contact with later.

That's not leadership. That's reckless, when families throughout Clackamas County will follow her lead, and cases of COVID-19 will spike as a result.

Fortunately, there are leaders in this county who set better examples by placing public health ahead of politics.

Mayor Stan Pulliam of Sandy, a conservative and normally an ally with Smith, says he supports proper precautions, such as limiting the number of people in attendance at Thanksgiving gatherings.

"Where I disagree with the governor is on the issue of enforcement," Pulliam said. "We should educate and then trust our citizens. Not ask neighbor to turn in neighbor and have local law enforcement interrupting family gatherings during the holidays.

"Where I disagree with Tootie is how she stated that she is inviting as 'many people as possible' over for Thanksgiving. We should be showing better leadership than that and encouraging proper precautions," Pulliam added.

Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp took it a step further than Pulliam.

"In general, I'm supportive of the governor's work to try to contain the virus," Knapp said. "I don't have daily access to the same medical and epidemiological expertise she does. I believe we should be following the advice and directives the governor is putting out based on the judgment of the professional people she's associated with."

It's easy to understand the disappointment of missing out on Thanksgiving traditions in 2020. For many of us, it's been nine long months since our families have been together under the same roof. But now is not the time to surrender. We've all worked too hard to just give up with the finish line in sight.

Please, don't let Tootie Smith fool you with her reckless words and behavior. Instead, take a pass on your large holiday gatherings (Christmas and New Year's too, if necessary) and look forward to the time when your family can celebrate and truly be thankful once the danger has subsided.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe. Stay healthy.

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