Eagle County Commissioners: Human rights are a public health concern | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Commissioners: Human rights are a public health concern

Jeanne McQueeney, Matt Scherr and Kathy Chandler-Henry
Valley Voices

Here we go again. In a column we shared back in April, we recognized the need to pause our focus on big, important issues such as affordable housing, early childhood education and climate change, and put our energies into helping protect our community from a global pandemic. Now, we find portions of that response eclipsed as we recognize the urgent need to make space to address racism.

It can be a disconcerting feeling when the thing or things that seem most important suddenly aren’t anymore. While social distancing is the most critical action we can take for our physical health — for many of us our need to voice our outrage, lend our support and join together against hundreds of years of inequity outweighs the need to stay safely at home.

We hear the view from some who say allowing for these expressions of unity, at this particular time, is hypocritical when large gatherings go against the recommendations for fighting a disease. We ask you to consider the scale of the issue, and the magnitude of what is happening across our country and our world.

Is the enjoyment of our typical summer events worth the health risks to participants and attendees? We don’t believe so. 

Is advocating for the lives of the disenfranchised worth it? Absolutely.

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As far as our community needs are concerned, we can’t choose between health and human rights. These are interconnected issues, both with public health implications.  

In this community, racism and social justice have always been top public health concerns. Disparities in economic status, access to health care, educational opportunities and much more are prevalent between our white and non-white residents.  

For those who will say these views belong to a particular political side, we will push back hard. Leaders from every single one of our local law enforcement agencies, representing a range of ideals, have joined in the conversation and made their support known. They’ve expressed their solidarity at community gatherings in Avon, Basalt, Eagle and Vail.

If the time is now to bring light to continued deep-seated inequality, and if the opportunity is here to act, then we must. The fabric of our community is torn by COVID-19 and it is torn by racial injustice. We must work to repair the tears. We must fight against systemic racism with all the effort we would use to fight a highly infectious disease.

Jeanne McQueeney, Matt Scherr and Kathy Chandler-Henry are Eagle County Commissioners.

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