MINOT, N.D. — Things are beginning to get back to normal, as they should.
While there are still reasons to be wary, the scourge that is the COVID-19 virus is receding in our state. As I write this, on Memorial Day Monday, the total number of active cases in North Dakota stands at just 411. That's an 85 percent decline since December 14, when the first doses of vaccine were made available here.
By the time you read this, the active case count will almost certainly be lower.
The proliferation of the vaccine continues, too, despite frustrating but accurate headlines about hesitancy in our region. The pace is not as rapid as March, when over 6,000 shots were delivered per day on average, or April, when that number was nearly 4,000, but in May, despite the vaccine becoming a front in our insipid culture wars, we still managed over 1,600 shots per day.
The more shots we deliver, the closer to post-pandemic normal we get.
This brings me to the point of this column.
It's time for our politicians to bring back the in-person town halls.
"Could you use your access to ask our two Senators and one Representative why they don’t hold town hall meetings?" a reader asked me on Twitter over the holiday weekend. " I don’t think it is right that I should have to call into a radio show to speak with Sen. Cramer. Please help."
@robport could you use your access to ask our two Senators and one Representative why they don’t hold town hall meetings? I don’t think it is right that I should have to call into a radio show to speak with Sen. Cramer. Please help. Thx— Maggie Woods (@MagWoods) May 29, 2021
I think she's right.
Before the pandemic both Sen. Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong routinely held in-person events where their constituents could show up and ask them questions in an open forum. Cramer called his Coffee with Cramer events. They scheduled them in communities big and small, at regular intervals.
Then the pandemic happened, and for perfectly understandable reasons, the events stopped.
The always inscrutable Sen. John Hoeven has never liked these in-person events and simply doesn't do them. When I've asked him about that, he points out that he routinely holds roundtable events with community leaders, and that his office is very responsive to constituents. While both of those things are true, there's nothing that can replace an in-person town hall in terms of accessibility.
Hoeven should begin holding them.
Armstrong and Cramer should begin holding them again.
Think of it not just as a way to better interact with constituents (one advantage of our small-population state is that we can still reasonably expect to meet our delegation face-to-face), but also a way to single that the pandemic is largely over.
If our delegation really wanted to do some good, they could make vaccines available at their town hall events, facilitating not just greater outreach to their constituencies, but also promoting greater protection against the COVID-19 virus and its emerging variants.
It could be a win-win.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.