It appears from the recent West Central Tribune story that a number of local sheriffs have abdicated their responsibility in enforcing the mandate to wear masks in public.

The Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Holien has said that “taking appropriate steps to ensure personal and family safety and health is a personal responsibility”. He is ignoring the fact that masks are primarily worn to protect others, making it a public safety issue.

In 2018 according to the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2841 people lost their lives because of distracted driving and 10511 died because of drunk driving. These are horrific numbers but they pale compared to the 150,000 lives that have been lost in less than half of a year to the pandemic. The greatest part of this tragedy is that many of those lives could have been saved if proper safety procedures such as wearing masks had been followed. So sheriffs, just as you enforce hands-free driving and drunk driving laws, I encourage you to do your job regarding the mask mandate.

Also, state Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article, you admit to not enforcing mask-wearing at your businesses. Your rationale is that only one person has died in Kandiyohi County, so it’s no big deal. So what is your threshold for the number dead before you take this pandemic seriously?

Finally, I thank the West Central Tribune for your thorough coverage of this crisis and your editorials encouraging people to comply with masks and social distancing.

Ed Downey