EDITORIAL: Leadership needed on social media

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Jul. 21—Two tweets in recent days, one by Missouri Congressman Jason Smith and the other by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, stand in sharp contrast to one another.

Blunt, who has announced he will be retiring in 2022, tweeted last week: "COVID vaccines are safe, effective and free. Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic."

It is the kind of leadership that is needed right now as the pandemic roars back across southern Missouri, where vaccination rates remain dangerously low.

Smith tweeted: "The Biden administration wants to knock down your door KGB-style to force people to get vaccinated. We must oppose forced vaccination!"

Smith, who represents south-central and southeast Missouri and who has flirted with the idea of replacing Blunt, could not be further from the truth.

There are door-to-door campaigns underway to help share information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, but these are nonthreatening and nonconfrontational. People are offered information about vaccination clinics, but no one is thrown to the ground and jabbed against their will.

Smith's tweet was reckless, dangerous and will keep people from listening to those who are going door to door.

It came, by the way, just hours before Springfield Mayor Ken McClure warned on national television that what has come to Southwest Missouri — spiking caseloads, overwhelmed hospitals and staff, and tragic and unnecessary deaths — awaits the rest of the state if we don't get vaccinated.

"My message is that the surge is coming," McClure said Sunday.

Smith's tweet came just days after four Southwest Missouri counties — Jasper, Newton, Barry and McDonald — were named hot spots by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

His tweet came just days after Missouri officials reported the highest daily count of new COVID-19 cases since the dead of winter.

And it came just days after Jeremy Drinkwitz, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin, tweeted: "Unfortunately we have surpassed our highest COVID IP (inpatient) census mark set last November. We have 62+ inpatients today ... Our health care heroes are giving their all. These are difficult times."

There have been nearly 400 cases of COVID-19 reported just in Jasper County in the last week. More deaths are coming, and leadership is more important than ever.

People are getting sick and needlessly dying. This is certainly not the time for imprudent rhetoric.

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