So what now?
Despite voting in favor of an ordinance requiring residents to wear masks when in public spaces or within 6 feet of a nonfamily member when in public, I totally get why some of my fellow council members voted against it. I understand those who spoke and said they didn't want what they feel is their "right to choose" mandated to them. Nobody wants to be told what they should or shouldn't do.
I arrived home and immediately began trying to respond to the numerous emails I have received. I still have well over 200 to get to. I hope to get to them all. I worked today and had a decent day. I walked through the hospital today, and for the most part, the health care heroes I spoke to were in good spirits and focused on doing what they do.
I spoke with many today who watched the entire four hours of the Joplin City Council meeting last week, and they had sentiments that I expected to hear from health care workers: Please wear a mask.
As I digested emails I was able to skim through while taking an occasional break, and text messages, and yes, the random phone call, I just kept circling back to the same internal question: What now? What direction do we take now? I am a leader in this community; how do I lead now?
I prayed, spoke with some physicians, I spoke with regular people with no apparent skin in the game, I conversed with co-workers. What I know after all the talking and interacting is that every one of these people matter to me. At some human level, I care deeply for all of them — my family, my co-workers, the doctors, nurses, food services personnel — all of them. I care deeply. I think this sense of deep caring is what has driven me all these years to be involved behind the scenes of the city and now in the leadership role I'm grateful to hold.
But what now?
Well for now, I am going to ask my fellow Joplin residents and the numerous guests who come in and out of our great city daily to make wise choices and do what you feel is best in taking care of yourselves and your neighbors. You have said that you didn't need big government telling you what to do; you are grown-ups and can figure out on your own how to stay safe from COVID-19 — that you are smart enough to know what's best for you and yours.
Well this is the Show-Me State — show me. Let's flatten this curve. Let's reduce the spike. Let's smash this surge. You have spoken, emailed, called, texted, posted and practically screamed from the fifth floor of Joplin City Hall; now it's time to put the proof in the pudding.
Get out there, live, be smart, shop local, support one another. I am with you 100%. Together we can.
If I am fortunate to see you out there, let's talk, let's be civil, let's find solutions together. I'm wearing my mask, but I'm used to it. I wear one all day at work, 10 hours a day, five days a week. I have never believed in Joplin more than I do now.
Stay safe, neighbor. I hope to see you soon.
Keenan T. Cortez is mayor pro tem of Joplin.