A new generation of leaders is leveraging both the power of office and the power of the street.
Steven l. reed smooths his gray suit jacket before he grips the podium. The mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, Reed has seen the coronavirus tear through his city faster than anywhere else in the state. The hospitals have run out of beds; medical professionals are pleading for help. If Reed had had his way, he would have issued a stay-at-home order to stamp this out, but he’s limited by the state constitution, which grants the necessary authority only to the governor. So, on June 16, he is standing before eight city-council members with a simple plea: Require everyone to wear a mask.
“The longer we keep this going, the more we’re going to hurt ourselves,” Reed says. “Is it that inconvenient to tell people to wear masks?” The ordinance he’s requesting would carry a small fine if disobeyed. But half of his audience is skeptical. Wouldn’t a public-service announcement be just as good? one councilor asks. Reed responds that providing people with accurate public-health information is important but that “some regulation” is necessary to slow the spread of the virus.