Do the Amish get an unfair share of finger-pointing for their collective or individual behavior as regards COVID-19? Holmes County officials have formed a “defense team” to address different COVID-related topics, some of them regarding PR. First, what’s the team all about?

Addressing statewide media queries, quarantine guidelines after exposure and updates for local status reports were among the many topics tackled Monday morning in the inaugural COVID Defense Team meeting.

Holmes County commissioners held the discussion via Zoom.

The new team is the result of a meeting with Gov. Mike DeWine, who encouraged county officials to reach out to community leaders to do everything within their power to keep the community open and be smart about it through the latest surge of coronavirus.

More than two dozen officials from the Holmes Health District, Emergency Management, school districts, Pomerene Hospital, Sheriff’s Office, fire and EMS, Job and Family Services, Chamber of Commerce and the Holmes County Home came together to share ideas and information.

On the Amish:

Chamber Director Tiffany Gerber said her office fields many calls from media outside of the area wanting the county to address the perceived role the Amish are playing in the spread of the virus.

“Some of the larger cities around us have sensationalized the messaging, focusing in on the Amish community,” she said.

“Media outside the area” and the comment on larger cities do not surprise me. The county health commissioner has a problem with what he describes as stigmatization:

Health Commissioner Michael Derr said he has worked with an Amish steering committee, and gave assurances the virus is not an Amish-English issue.

“I am really disappointed to see people play that stigma of our community,” Derr said. “They tend to gravitate toward that in their concerns and complaints. What we’ve got to remember is that Holmes County is not unique to this response. Everyone has seen an increase in cases. It is people who are not taking personal responsibility and trying to do the right things. If we all try to take care of each other, we can do some good impact at pushing this curve back down. It is shameful people want to point a finger and blame. The virus is the place to point the finger, not at each other.”

Over the past months I’ve seen a good share of comments and criticism of the Amish not following COVID protocols in different places. One recent such blog comment you readers did not see here – because it was automatically blocked due to the numerous expletives it contained.

It may be true that some in Amish communities do not follow whatever the local protocol might be to the degree non-Amish residents of local suburbs or cities and towns do. From what I can tell, there is a cultural divide as far as adherence to mask and other rules.

Like Commissioner Derr, I also don’t think it is so much an Amish-English thing, but may be more largely described as urban-rural or by some other pairing of “opposites”. So while it may very well be true that Amish people on the whole are more lax on adhering to COVID rules, I also think it’s true that – as with other issues – the Amish make a convenient place for people to direct their ire. The Amish don’t punch back. Though in this case, non-Amish are starting to punch back for them.

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