For the past 17 months, it’s been my great honor to serve on the local Covid Task Force. Local leaders from all walks of life — health care, business, government, non-profits, churches, first responders, and more — work together so that we can better respond to the real world effects of the pandemic.
Why do we do it? Because lives are at stake. People are dying. In Greenbrier County, 66 people died from Covid during the pandemic. In Fayette County, 86 people died. In Monroe County, 18 people died. In Summers, 23 people died. In West Virginia, 2,997 people died (as of Wednesday, Aug. 18). In America, over 624,000 people died.
Those are the stakes. People’s lives are on the line. That’s why our response to the pandemic matters. Because we want to save as many lives as possible. Each of you reading this knows a family who has lost a loved one. Covid is real. The pain it causes families is real. The sickness it brings on those it infects is real.
With that context in mind, I read Delegate Todd Longanacre’s column in which he refers to the Covid pandemic as a “scamdemic.” He also called on citizens to “Shake off the brainwashing.” Such political parlor tricks are the principal reason we still can’t get this virus under control. Casting doubt on our medical leaders, who tell us vaccines and masks are the best tools we have to fight this virus, is as unprofessional as it is unhelpful as it is unthinkable.
Perhaps most egregious, the delegate goes on to belittle those charged with keeping our community safe when he wrote, “All of us must keep a close eye on what our County Commissions, City Counsels (sic), elected School Boards, and County Health Officials are doing lest they too shall lead us astray.” We should be thanking our public health leaders, not ridiculing them.
Health departments in particular are facing enormous pressures right now. They cannot win in the court of public opinion. So they just keep doing their jobs — trying to protect us from ourselves. We owe them our gratitude and our best effort to stay safe.
The vast majority of West Virginians agree we should listen to our doctors and trust them to give us sound medical advice. For our families, for our schools, for our churches, for our businesses, and for our communities. We all want to be able to live as normally as safely possible. We can do that by following the advice of our medical leaders.
In these trying times, we need to extend grace to each other, rather than riling people up with hysteria and rhetoric. We need to work together. We need to listen more. We need to remember that the medical profession’s first rule is, “Do no harm.”
Our health departments, nurses, doctors, EMTs, and medical community are our better angels in the fight against Covid. When you see them at the store or at church, thank them for all they’re doing to protect us. They have earned our respect and our gratitude.
People are dying. The stakes are high. But do not allow yourself to fall victim to our lesser demons. The American story is one of triumph. Just when it seems there isn’t a way, we summon our better angels and find a way.
Now is the time to hold out hope and summon our better angels. We will get through this. Together.
Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-10th) is the minority leader and a local pastor. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV.