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My Point of View: What types of leaders are our state’s representatives?

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

 

Governor Walz is a true leader who circles the herd in response to danger.

Rep. Peggy Bennett said she “lost faith” in Gov. Walz’s COVID-19 plan in mid-April, when Minnesota’s deaths were less than 100. Since then we haven’t seen a tailing off of cases or deaths. Over 600 additional people have died. As of Sunday, more than twice as many patients (221) are in ICU with COVID-19 as in mid-April. In all, over 1,800 health care workers have tested positive.

Furthermore, Rep. Bennett characterizes COVID-19 as primarily a problem in nursing homes. This is where most deaths in the state have occurred (587 of 722 deaths, as of the beginning of this week), but that’s because the virus is particularly deadly once it breeches care facilities’ defenses.

The spread is first happening outside of nursing homes and assisted living. To protect these care residences, we must thwart the virus on the outside. This takes a determined, society-wide effort.

Using blunt tools like closing non-essential businesses has helped reduce illness and mortality, but the threat of a spike that overwhelms our medical resources hasn’t passed yet, and COVID-19 is now spreading faster into older, sicker rural areas from cities. Freeborn County’s cases have nearly doubled in the last four weeks, from 33 to 61. Safely re-opening should be methodical and based on advice from epidemiological experts, not left up to individuals.

Instead of being a leader like Gov. Walz who motivates people to keep the herd circled around our most vulnerable as we face prolonged attack from an invisible enemy, Bennett is following the herd of people who are impatient to return to normalcy.

When Bennett says, “I believe we should always err on the side of freedom and empowering people to do what is right,” that also means empowering people to do what is convenient for them rather than safe for others. (Yet she sensibly voted against allowing people the freedom to hold cell phones while driving. Why? Because — like carelessly spreading COVID-19 — it led to too many deaths.)

The bottom line is, we aren’t returning to normalcy until we have an effective vaccine and/or treatment. Many businesses and organizations will have to adapt their models to survive because their regular traffic will be diminished.

Walz’s team has worked diligently to reduce the impacts of the virus so we can get back to work safely. They are carefully “turning the dials,” knowing that if the virus flares in places, it’s going to take more lives and further damage local economies.

Here’s a simple thing Rep. Bennett can do instead of stoking resentment against science-based orders that everybody wishes were unnecessary: implore people to take precautions. For individuals this especially means avoiding large groups, washing hands and wearing masks when interacting with the public. These are common sense practices we can do to help slow the virus and force the infection rate below 1. (A rate of 1 means each infected person infects one other person.) 

I do most of my grocery shopping at Hy-Vee, and I greatly appreciate that all its workers wear masks. That helps protect me as a customer. The workers aren’t protected, though, unless I wear a mask, too. I’ve never witnessed more than half of shoppers wearing masks, usually older shoppers rather than younger ones.

How sad it is when older people are protecting younger people by wearing masks, but younger people — who have less risk of becoming gravely ill and are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers — aren’t showing the same consideration in return. That’s a breakdown.

Freeborn County is 22% age 65 and older. Senior citizens are a vital part of our community, and we must protect each other.

I believe Rep. Bennett knows this in her heart, and I wish she would spell it out. We need her leadership on this. We all need to be considerate toward vulnerable people and fight the virus together as a community. She talks about exercising common sense; unfortunately, even small sacrifices to protect susceptible people have become uncommon sense.

It takes uncommon sense to fight the virus. Besides intense economic pressure, leaders are up against a deluge of misinformation and junk science like the mishmash presented in “Plandemic.” It’s even tougher when leaders like Rep. Jim Hagedorn actively promote false narratives on their Facebook pages, like when he posted the video of two for-profit urgent care center doctors pooh-poohing the seriousness of COVID-19. (Youtube removed both Plandemic and the doctors’ video from its platform. Good riddance to bad rubbish.)

From the state we need more intermediate help for individuals who lost jobs and small businesses who lost customers, and we need quick deployment of testing and tracing resources.

Circling the herd with science and public-spiritedness will get us through in better shape than following the “Liberate Minnesota” herd.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.