The Personal Autonomy v Public Health Hezitorial
YONKERS, NY — NOVEMBER 28, 2020 — Individual Autonomy and Yonkers City Hall’s responsibility during a public health crisis is such that it must protect all workers. Elected and/or appointed personnel must conform to conduct that lessens against the spread and recurrence of what can be a debilitating condition that has too often led to death.
It was in 1909 that a bacterial infection spread through food and water contaminated by salmonella revealed itself. Those that fell ill suffered from high fever, and diarrhea at a time before the advent of antibiotics. Those who became infected fell ill with high fever, sometimes delirium and death. Over a century and a decade later, COVID-19 has reared what for too many has become a death sentence.
In 1909 and presently, individuals may not even recognize they are asymptomatic. The fact that one may be asymptomatic does not relieve their responsibility to adhere to “best practice” when engaged so many hours per day, for a week’s time, to drop their guard despite their co-workers admonition to wear a mask as they do. To be in disbelief that one may be a “superspreader” and thereby need not subscribe to “best practice” conduct is not an excuse for not recognizing they may indeed be infectious. They may subliminally be under a false assumption of immortality despite the resurgence of COVID-19 throughout the world. Supplanting his personal autonomy during a pandemic because one does not exhibit symptoms is personally irresponsible.
Yonkers City Hall has suffered lockdowns specific to the spread of COVID-19. The incubation period of COVID-19 may be revealed for some within a week’s time, for a greater majority closer to a two week period, and for others, as long as three weeks in duration. Those who suffer symptoms are evidently aware of their circumstance, whereas those who are asymptomatic may be in denial that even they may be infectious to others. And that is the crux of this pandemic and others revealed from the past, and those that may be discovered in the future.
The fact that Yonkers City Hall permits any worker(s), no matter their responsibility, to traverse City Hall on one floor. And even traverse most if all floors among co-workers is unconscionable. It is so because there have been many incidences, some acknowledged, while others have not, that scared City Hallers to such a point that they chose to telecommute to work, yet not everyone had or has that option. For months now, Yonkers City Hall is for all intent and purpose a “ghost town” versus the teeming frenzy of working and getting the job done before COVID-19 became known.
Most appalling is that Akeem Jamal, employed by the Mayor’s Department of Communications, forewarned ad nauseam to wear a mask, has chosen to disregard such admonitions.
When the prospect of death knocks incessantly at one’s doorstep due to their belief that their rights eclipse the rights of the greater good, conduct unbecoming must not win the day. Alas, Yonkers City Hall is under lockdown AGAIN. This time the formerly healthy Assistant Communicatíons Director is infected by COVID-19.
Warnings specifically directed to him to wear a mask have not been heeded. His conduct has forced the hand of Yonkers City Hall to engage in a “thorough” disinfection process of City Hall from top to bottom because he is a “superspreader”. How many people will succumb to COVID-19 because of him?
Life, devoid of health may yet to imbed his psyche. Perhaps age will inform him that he is not only responsible for his personal conduct to maintain his health, but he has an ancillary responsibility to the people he meets at the workplace and those he meets in public, whether friends, acquaintances, or complete strangers.
Yonkers City Hall must reign in Akeem Jamal’s nonchalant behavior. People may remember his involvement in an auto accident after departing a pick-up bar, evidently in an intoxicated state, getting into this BMW and driving north on Central Park Avenue for close to two miles to crash into a vehicle heading south as clearly designated and defined by road signs.
While that incident would cause him many months of recovery, Yonkers City Hall maintained his employment and responsibility. Perhaps City Hall’s continued employment of him emboldened him to such a point that he felt “entitled” somehow. No matter his demeanor, his autonomy may not, in fact cannot be dismissive of “best practice” to protect the public interest.
City Hall may be wise to reign Mr. Jamal’s conduct and redefine appropriate conduct that respects everyone to the best of our capacity until the City of Yonkers can vaccinate the population, and even that may not be good enough.
Can the City of Yonkers be liable for this outcome? Must legislation be enacted to define acceptable “personal autonomy” standards versus “Public Health” interests?