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Supervisor's Corner: Our Ever-Changing Perspectives During COVID

By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty



***PLEASE NOTE: Previously, these columns have been edited for grammar/spelling/proper formatting purposes. However, this column has NOT been edited, and it appears as originally written by the supervisor.***

It's been almost 11-months since the term "socially distancing" entered our vocabulary with the onset of COVID 19. Doesn't it seem like 11-years!!!!??? It's hard enough dealing with the tangible medical realities of contracting COVID 19. Throw in the intangibles such as "Mask wearers versus NON mask wearers" and we've had a tough 11 months on our psyches. Truth be told, my wife, 3 kids still living at home, and myself got COVID back in mid November 2020. The good news, we all had either NO discernable symptoms, or very mild ones and by Thanksgiving were all fine. The bad news... 1. trying to counsel my 12-year-old that he won't be seen as a leper by his classmates when he goes back to school. 2. navigating the calls, e-mails, and texts from the Health department on isolation and/or quarantine times for 5 of us necessitated a masters degree!(LOL). 3. trying to figure out the most appropriate way to communicate that I had COVID 19 to Town employees and/or citizens when balancing HIPA privacy laws and my position as Webster Town Supervisor.

"Time and relatable experiences" during COVID 19 the past 11-months has played out different for all of us. The process our brains utilize to absorb information and make determinations on things has been seriously challenged. One day you THINK you know how COVID is contracted and how you feel about people who got it.... the next you think differently on it as more information becomes available, or your family is touched by it. For example, a mid-20's aged young lady our family knows got COVID in early November 2020. She had minor symptoms and was able to fully perform her job functions from home, albeit not optimally. By mid November she was officially released from isolation by the Monroe County Health Department. She just assumed she would be able to go back into the office she worked at with 10 other people. However, the owner informed her that the other 9 people in the office did NOT want her back in the office! Worst of all, it seemed as though it was a punitive punishment being administered by people 40+ years old on a younger person due to their impression "her going to a Halloween party was irresponsible and she deserved to get COVID". She was essentially a labeled as a "pariah". Fast forward to Mid January 2021, ALL those 9 people in her office in the past 2-months have been out of work either due to contracting COVID or one of their immediate family members contracting it. Based on the timing of them getting it, there was NO way it was due to the young lady we know. Wonder if those 9 people still see people who got COVID as "pariahs" or "deserved to get it based on their lifestyle"?

Facial Masks during COVID, and WHY people wear them may be a great thesis topic for some Master's degree candidate in Psychology in the next few years. Full disclosure.... I am an advocate for wearing a mask and try to make sure I do "when appropriate based on CDC and Monroe County Health department issued guidelines". I don't wear one when I am on the dais and conducting Town Board meetings. I have been criticized for that. My reason for not wearing the mask at that time is that I am more than 6-feet apart from anyone else, and I want to make sure my voice inflection can be heard by ALL in the room and those watching on Spectrum cable channel 1303 or livestream on Town Website since our meetings during COVID are closed to the public from attending in person. What has amazed me are the wide varying reasons people either wear a mask or why they defiantly DON'T wear a mask. Some of these reasons are pure (i.e health)... some of these reasons are image (I.e. fear of backlash from people if they don't) Some could be perceived as hypochondria (I.e. Wearing a mask outside on a walk in a park, or while driving alone in a car..... but I concede that it may be "pure" due to health specifics of that person) Then, you have the "Non mask wearers". I find these people interesting and that thesis I mentioned earlier may take a deeper dive on "why they don't wear masks"? I've heard reasons including but not limited to a) the government is trying to control us, b) COVID is a hoax, and c) masks don't work on keeping us safe from contracting COVID.

In summary.... by the time we all get a chance to sit back and REALLY assess "why we feel the way we do" on all these COVID related issues, we'll most likely be coming out of it!! That to me is the BEST news. With Vaccines already being given to Health care workers, and now to the 65+ aged citizens, it is very reasonable to assume that Summer of 2021 will be opening the world back up. God willing, Autumn of 2021 will return schools to normalcy as students will hopefully be able to attend ALL day, every day, in person, and maybe with NO masks! I'll bet my friend, Webster School Superintendent Carmen Gumina would like that! Makes me think this one final thought.... remember Pre COVID when you used to see a person in public with a mask on and wonder "what's their gig?". I wonder when we'll have that feeling again when mask wearers Post- COVID become the minority?

As always, if you want to reach me, please call (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at supervisor@ci.webster.ny.us.

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