• May 27, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Critical jobs must go on - Odessa American: Letters To Editor

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Critical jobs must go on

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Posted: Sunday, April 5, 2020 6:45 am

KMID recently aired and published a story online by Feliz Romero regarding Odessa Mayor David Turner’s response to a D- social distancing rating received by Ector County from a study by Unacast based on cell phone tracking. I feel the need to comment on that story, because neither the story nor the response by Mayor Turner adequately explained why this rating is *NOT* applicable to Ector County and other areas that are involved in essential agriculture and natural resource production.

The study’s simplistic methodology assumes that improved social distancing can be measured by percentage reductions in miles driven. In urban areas where most driving involves commuting between home and work, and where many of the jobs are either non-essential or can be performed from home, that is a reasonable metric. However, in areas where many jobs involve critical infrastructure and cannot be performed from home, such statistics are much less relevant, and cannot be directly compared to similar statistics for big cities.

Both agriculture and natural resource production are critical industries that cannot simply be shut down, nor can much of the work (especially in terms of miles driven) be performed from home. Agriculture and natural resource production (e.g. oil and gas) require daily travel back and forth from towns and into the field for environmental monitoring, equipment maintenance and repairs, delivery of supplies, planting, fertilizing, weeding, irrigation, and pest control of crops, feeding and care of animals, and delivery of crops, animals, and natural resources (e.g. oil) to market. While some automation is possible, even highly automated systems must be monitored and repaired.

Social distancing is certainly extremely critical given the current Covid-19 pandemic, and its importance must not be downplayed. However, by failing to explain why the referenced study grade is of little relevance to most agricultural and natural resource producing areas, you have done a disservice to Odessa, Ector County, and most other rural areas. I feel that you owe many citizens of Ector County a further explanation and an apology for what can essentially be taken as an insult, since a large portion of the mileage driven by our hardworking population cannot simply be eliminated, and does not reflect a social distancing failure.

Odessa, TX

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