Our country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a failure. Our government has let us down, at almost every level. For me, that’s an election issue.
When I consider the roles and responsibilities of our government, I look to our Founding Fathers for guidance and inspiration. On Sept. 17, 1787, George Washington sent a letter to the president of the Congress. He encouraged the government to “provide for the Interest and Safety of all — Individuals entering into Society must give up a Share of Liberty to preserve the Rest. The Magnitude of the Sacrifice must depend as well on Situations and Circumstances as on the Object to be obtained.”
Our government has not provided for the interest and safety of all.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Oct. 25, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated, “We are not going to control the pandemic.” Dismissing the virus is not a new strategy for this administration. The Trump administration never really tried to control the pandemic or keep Americans safe. The U.S. has never had a national response, nor have we had a science-based communication strategy. Our public health experts have been silenced. South Korea employed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health recommendations and has only lost 460 citizens to the virus. Imagine if, in this country, we had listened to our own experts. How many of the 231,000 people who lost their lives to the coronavirus would still be with us today?
The Trump administration has failed us on four levels. President Donald Trump did not prepare the country after he had received fair warning. We learned from Bob Woodward’s tapes that the president was aware of the deadly threat of the virus in January. Other than the travel restrictions from China, the administration did nothing to heed the warning. The second failure was that the administration did not listen to scientists or follow the data. The third is the continual dismissing of the virus. There have been countless examples of the administration’s reckless disregard and negligent behavior. Most recently, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Vice President Mike Pence, went back on the campaign trail after five people close to him tested positive. The fourth is the lack of leading by example: Senior officials chose not to wear masks or encourage mask-wearing at rallies and events.
Congress has been unable to pass another stimulus package. Congress and the White House have been discussing the details of a second stimulus package for five months now. In August, Congress recessed without passing a stimulus package. The Senate rushed through the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The Senate went on recess again, immediately after Barrett’s swearing-in ceremony. There is no apparent urgency in providing relief to Americans struggling economically.
Here in Missouri, our leaders have been just as ineffective in their coronavirus response. Gov. Mike Parson, who also has recently recovered from the virus, regularly attended in-person events and poses for pictures without wearing a mask. The Missouri COVID-19 dashboard reported that an error in how data was being exported caused inaccurate reporting and was shut down for several days. Cases, hospitalizations, positivity rates and deaths continue to rise in Missouri as well across the county. Public health experts have been warning about the fall and winter with the confluence of cold and flu season.
The local response is no better. In September, the St. Charles County election authority sent out an email to its poll workers. It stated that poll workers were not required to wear a mask on Nov. 3. If challenged, workers were advised to “act surprised that you don’t have a face mask on properly and then apologize as you put the mask on,” the email stated. “Wear your mask correctly until the voter leaves the polling place. Please do this every time a voter says something to you.” Kurt Bahr, the county’s director of elections, acknowledged the email was poorly worded.
Leadership is lacking at every level. As a country, we need to get the pandemic under control in order to open the economy back up. We need to get the pandemic under control to be able to safely send our children back to school and keep our teachers and staff safe.
It seems to me that politics should never mix with public health. Since it has been inextricably connected, the only way to separate them is through the political process. I will vote with public health as my No. 1 voting issue. I will vote for those elected officials who have provided for the interest and safety of all. It is what we deserve and what we should demand.
Lynn Schmidt is the Missouri state leader for Stand Up Republic and is a registered nurse. She lives in St. Charles.
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