Missouri Gov. Mike “Dang Mask” Parson, who spent most of the pandemic discounting science and diminishing the importance of basic safety measures like mask-wearing, is now accusing a real scientist and medical expert of spreading misinformation and trying to “spread fear and panic” about the state’s slow rollout of vaccinations in the St. Louis region. Given the governor’s repeated flubs regarding the pandemic response, versus the consistent professionalism of Dr. Alex Garza, director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, we recommend St. Louisans put their trust behind the latter. At least he knows what he’s doing.
Parson has shown increasing irritation in recent weeks toward anyone who dares challenge his leadership. He blasted House Speaker Rob Vescovo for shutting down the House chamber during a coronavirus outbreak among members, forcing Parson to deliver his State of the State speech in the Senate chamber instead. He blasts news media coverage of his pandemic response, as if reporting the facts about coronavirus cases and maskless Parson campaign events constitutes bias against him.
But the facts speak for themselves. Parson refused to lead in the early days of the pandemic and instead punted authority to local officials for issuing unpopular shutdown orders and restrictions. He let them take the heat while he focused on his election campaign. Parson pooh-poohed the significance of mass gatherings and maskless parties like the superspreader event at a Lake of the Ozarks swimming pool/bar that garnered national headlines.
Garza, by contrast, has been steadfast in his insistence that Missouri’s most populous region remain vigilant with safety measures as coronavirus cases mounted. Parson reacted angrily to reports that the St. Louis region, with 2 million inhabitants, was getting short shrift on the state’s vaccine distribution. This area, known as Region C, received around 15,600 doses, mainly via major hospitals and local health facilities, the Post-Dispatch reported last week.
Garza and one of Parson’s fellow Republicans, Franklin County presiding commissioner Tim Brinker, complained Tuesday that a region with 37% of the state’s population was not receiving a proportional distribution of vaccines.
“Dr. Garza is now spreading information — false information — about the vaccine administration in the St. Louis area to once more spread fear and panic,” Parson complained on Thursday.
Parson can complain all he wants, but his track record tells the true story of his gross mismanagement. If Garza and Brinker were so off base, why is the state suddenly doubling to 33,200 the number of doses to be distributed to the region this week?
The pandemic has presented huge challenges for all leaders. Missteps were to be expected. True leaders know when it’s time to conduct an honest self-appraisal and admit that things could’ve been done better. But for Parson, the finger of blame always seems to point to someone else.