A few days ago, I turned on the national news and watched a demonstration at the Michigan State Capitol which included a couple hundred people, some of whom were carrying guns and others carrying flags with swastikas on them while young children were screaming into the faces of policemen stationed there for their safety.
The following segment of local news featured a similar demonstration led by State Rep. Darren Bailey at our capitol in Springfield. The reporter interviewed a lady who proclaimed that the coronavirus was a hoax and the governor should reopen the state immediately. The reporter indicated that he had interviewed several other people and asked if they were concerned that they may be spreading the virus by refusing to practice social distancing and wearing a face mask. Their response was, “We don’t care.”
My heart sank in that moment.
Despite the fact that both states were trying to comply with President Trump's Coronavirus Task force recommendations for reopening, which stipulated that there must be a downward trajectory of documented cases reported within a 14-day period and a robust testing program in place during Phase 1, no state in the country had met the requirement at that time.
Despite the fact that the plan was put together by two of the world’s best experts on infectious disease control in Drs. Fauci and Birx, Rep. Bailey encouraged people to go against the health experts' plans to save lives by demanding the governor reopen the state before the state could meet the plans requirements.
As a former congressman, co-chair of the Rural Health Care Caucus in the House of Representatives, a member of the Illinois Hospital Association Board of Trustees, and chairman of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning board, I have pretty good knowledge of rural health care and my congressional district included every hospital in Rep. Bailey’s district. They are good, small rural hospitals but with few, if any, ICU beds and certainly not capable of handling a massive coronavirus and flu epidemic that Dr. Fauci and other scientists have predicted could very well happen this fall and winter. People will die unnecessarily if this happens.
The ICU beds in Mount Vernon and Evansville will be full and every ventilator in use. Where will the people of southeastern Illinois go to receive life-saving care? How many long months will it take for jobs to return if this pandemic comes back with double the force?
We all want the economy to recover and restore the jobs of our people. It will if we take a measured and thoughtful approach to this and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed before the fall gets here with the potential of a second wave.
In my judgement, both the president's Coronavirus Task Force plan is solid and so is Gov. Pritzker’s. This is not a time for encouraging people to adopt the attitude that this pandemic is a hoax and we don’t have to care about our neighbors!
Glenn Poshard is a former Illinois State Senator, U.S. Congressman, gubernatorial candidate, and is a former President of the Southern Illinois University system.
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