Santa Claus is wearing a mask.
So why does Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey risk infecting his own neighborhood despite his protestations to the contrary?
Concerned for myself and others, as I always do before going out in public, I wore a black mask Wednesday as I headed out on my regular afternoon walk. At almost 70, I’m just another senior citizen in the Hill Section of Scranton trying to stay alive in this deadly age of COVID-19. Staying healthy always matters, but commitment to the common good is now crucial to survival.
Sadly, not everyone behaves conscientiously. Too many of my neighbors, postal carriers, FedEx drivers and others who should know better recklessly flaunt their ignorance, defiance or both by refusing to wear a mask.
Bob Casey is one of the sloppiest offenders.
As I walked up North Webster Avenue at about 3:15 p.m., my powerful Hill Section neighbor stood in the street chatting amicably with a gray-haired man. They stood about two feet apart, not at all socially distant or seeming to care about risk. In his black topcoat, hypodermic-needle-thin Casey looked like a stuffy professional pall bearer.
Casey wore a thin surgical mask under his chin like one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame back when the team wore leather football helmets. Last of the legends Jim Crowley is long dead and buried near Scranton. I don’t want to join him anytime soon if I can help it. Casey, 60, shouldn’t want to run the risk of dying or killing his neighbors, either.
Casey didn’t adjust his mask as my wife and I drew closer. As I passed on the other side of the street, I tried not to inhale the stench of Casey’s brash carelessness, too close for comfort for my underlying medical conditions. Geisinger doctors have diagnosed me as suffering from hypertensive heart disease without congestive heart failure and nonischemic cardiomyopathy (HCC). Excellent health care, medication, daily exercise, a good diet and a disciplined lifestyle make me strong – as long as potential fatal disease spreaders keep their distance.
Steering clear of Hill Section feral cats fighting fleas is one thing. Worrying that my neighbor the senator might breathe on me is a different kettle of droplets entirely.
On July 2 Casey appeared with other Democratic senators in a video Casey highlighted in a Twitter message touting the civic responsibility to wear a mask.
Casey wrote: “Wearing a mask shows:
1. Compassion – the person near you could have, or care for someone with, an underlying health complication.
2. Humility – you could be asymptomatic.
3. Community – mitigating COVID helps us all. TOGETHER, we will beat this virus.”
In yet another show of humility, in a subsequent July statement released by Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, Casey said, “Public health experts continue to recommend mask-wearing in public, and ongoing research continues to support that recommendation. When you wear a mask, you are sending a clear message to others in your community that you care about them and their well-being as much as your own. I know that if we each do our part, we will beat this virus and be able to start safely rebuilding together.”
The death toll climbed.
The fight continued.
Science discovered a vaccine.
In a Dec. 20 statement, Casey said, “This morning, I received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. I will receive my second dose in approximately three weeks. I encourage all Americans, in consultation with their doctor, to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them. I will continue to press the Administration to work to ensure that all Americans can receive the vaccine in a timely manner and insist that vaccines be distributed in an equitable fashion, particularly at nursing homes where residents and workers face an acute threat from the virus.”
How equitable is VIP vaccine distribution when I’m more at risk than he is? And I’m willing to wait in line while those even more at risk get their shots first. Despite whatever law or privilege gives Casey special vaccine status, our local blueblood should be standing in line with the rest of us. Not only does he jump the queue, he mocks the vaccine with his own smug dangerous behavior.
This is the same guy who says he likely already survived the coronavirus.
“My fever went away on its own by mid-April, and it was never recommended that I be tested for the virus,” he said in a published statement. “I was able to work during my illness, remotely engaging with constituents and staff and keeping a full schedule.”
Casey said the anitbody test “revealed substantial levels of COVID-19 antibody in my blood, significantly more than the amount required to qualify me as a plasma donor.”
“In an effort to help others fighting this virus, I will be making my first donation today in Taylor, Pennsylvania,” Casey said. “I encourage others who have recovered from COVID-19 to consult with their own physician to see if they may also be eligible to donate.”
“I will continue to follow the guidance of public health experts by wearing a mask in public and observing social distancing practices, and I hope that others will do the same to help slow the spread of this virus,” Casey said in the statement.
I, too, will follow the guidance of public health experts.
I, too, will continue to wear a mask in public.
And, I, too, will social distance – particularly when it comes to “Our Bobby,” an oblivious, inoculated white, male politician living the dream as a hypocrite.