Oregon’s Legislature goes into special session today to discuss and perhaps take action on important issues such as COVID-19 and police reform.
But is attendance so essential that it is worth the life of Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena?
Judging by a few — thankfully very few — of the comments swirling around social media, such health concerns should be cast aside in the midst of a pandemic.
One of the essential qualities of an elected public official is good judgment. Hansell is displaying that as he let his constituents know this week that he would not be attending the special session because his lungs are now compromised by a medical condition that makes him particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Hansell was hospitalized in March for pulmonary embolisms in both lungs.
The state capital, Salem, has recently seen an uptick in COVID-19, which further jeopardizes Hansell’s health. Hansel’s doctor advised against travel since he is considered immunocompromised.
“I would be there for sure if it weren’t for the COVID-19 consideration,” Hansell said. “I want to let people know that.”
The few who called for Hansell to take the risk going to Salem or resign his position seem to miss the reality that COVID-19 is a huge public health problem. It is particularly deadly for those with compromised health.
Hansell absolutely made the right decision. And, in doing so, sent a strong message to all that everyone must be aware of the health risks and take steps to avoid getting the coronavirus or spreading it.
Others, while understanding Hansell’s concerns, asked why Hansell (or others who can’t venture to the state Capitol) can’t be linked into the discussions remotely.
Frankly, that’s a good question, and one the Oregon Legislature — and other state legislatures — should fully address as this pandemic lingers.
For now, the only option is for Hansell to miss this legislative session. The Senate president made it clear that those who are not in the Capitol can’t vote.
Yes, it is unfortunate that Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties won’t have a voice in the Senate discussions, but it simply can’t be helped at this time.
The coronavirus has forced all of us to make difficult choices for ourselves and the public good. Hansell, to his credit, did what was wise.