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Why we asked the Cleveland mayoral candidates about their vaccination status

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Posted at 10:55 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 08:52:16-04

CLEVELAND — We anticipate that some may have questions about News 5 asking each candidate for Cleveland mayor about their vaccination status. It’s not a classic policy question – such as “How would you encourage vaccinations?”, which we also asked candidates – but we believe the vaccination status question is one worth asking.

In the spirit of our ongoing efforts to share how and why we report the news, we’ll explain our reasoning for doing so.

During this pandemic, politicians discussing their vaccination status has become an established norm. Politicians from former President Trump to President Biden, and here in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, have shared their vaccination statuses publicly, with all of them encouraging the public to get vaccinated. Some other politicians, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, openly acknowledge they are not vaccinated. These government servants have the public’s attention, and a giant megaphone, in terms of media coverage, which they know can influence individual behavior. Vaccination status is now an established part of the discourse.

More importantly, though, how they answer the vaccination question reflects judgment. The pandemic ranks as one of the defining challenges of our lifetimes. The next mayor of Cleveland will run a city health department while COVID-19 continues to kill and hospitalize Ohioans. Governmental agencies take their cues from their leaders. A mayor’s fervent beliefs or doubts about various courses of action matter because they ultimately translate into services – or lack thereof. Furthermore, the many worthwhile agendas being touted by the candidates may be hindered if the pandemic continues to damage public health and disrupt business and education. The reforms and ideas being touted by many candidates would be difficult to enact in the best of times, let alone during an ongoing public health crisis.

We have no agenda in reporting this. Well, we have one: informing the people of Northeast Ohio. That’s it. There may be those who disagree with our work – who don’t like the questions we ask or the facts we unearth. We fully support their right to criticize and disagree with us. That give-and-take – tense though it may be – is a sign of healthy civic discourse.

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Jodie Heisner
News Director

Joe Donatelli
Digital Director