Michael Smuksta: Gov. Tony Evers' order is keeping us safer
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Michael Smuksta: Gov. Tony Evers' order is keeping us safer

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Michael Smuksta

Michael Smuksta

I am writing in response to Bill Feehan’s op-ed “Is the cure worse than the disease?” (La Crosse Tribune, April 26) in which he criticized Gov. Tony Evers for extending the safer-at-home order as damaging to the Wisconsin economy.

The restrictions (the cure) in safer-at-home are not the problem in regard to the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic (the disease) is the cause of our economic difficulties.

Yes, Americans pride themselves on their individualism. But we must balance that individualism with a social responsibility to care for one another. Safer-at-home is working because everyone is doing their part to keep families, neighbors and communities safe. Follow the mantra of frontline health workers: “We are here for you. Stay home for us.”

There is also a moral dimension to this pandemic. Is there a price on a human life? Imagine how many more deaths and economic damage would have occurred if there were no restrictions and COVID-19 was community spread.

Gov. Evers and Democrats are going to continue relying on the science and public health experts to help guide us through these challenges and to inform the decision-making process.

This isn’t about whether Feehan can get his hair cut; it’s about whether we can save the lives of people who work in factories, restaurants, retail stores and, yes, hair salons.

According to the model created by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, when it was evident the state faced a pandemic of a deadly and highly contagious virus, Wisconsin was projected to have between 440 and 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 by April 8.

In the first three weeks of the governor’s safer-at-home order, data show that it saved at least 300 lives and perhaps as many as 1,400 lives.

But there is still much to be done to ensure that the economy can be reopened safely. There is much anxiety about workers and businesses in the state.

Nevertheless, in the final analysis, Wisconsin businesses, workers, and consumers won’t be confident about the economy if we are concerned about our safety and health.

The number one priority is the health and safety of Wisconsinites.

Reopening the economy will require careful preparation and planning and that’s why Gov. Evers announced the Badger Bounce Back plan to ensure our state can access more testing and labs, expand contact tracing, aggressively track the spread of COVID-19, acquire more personal protection equipment, and increase the capacity of health-care systems so a phased reopening of business can occur safely.

As for businesses, Gov. Evers announced a new emergency order April 27 that will expand allowed operations for previously nonessential businesses.

The real issue is not the restrictions of safer-at-home but the failed leadership of President Donald Trump when tested with a major crisis.

The crisis is worse because Trump ignored warnings in January and February and dismissed the severity of the pandemic. He failed to prepare, failed to develop a plan and failed to provide states and hospitals with supplies. Testing is still not at the optimum rate.

Republican leadership at the federal and state level is also a failure.

Regarding the recent protest in Madison of the safer-at-home order, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, stated indecisively, “I’m neither encouraging nor discouraging them.” Assembly leader Robin Vos and Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald are endangering more lives by asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to invalidate the extension of safer-at-home.

Author Thomas Friedman interviewed Dov Seidman, founder of the How Institute for Society, about values-based leadership.

Seidman stated that “Great leaders trust people with the truth. And they make hard decisions guided by values and principles, not just politics, popularity or short-term profits. … In addition to truth and hope, what people actually want in a leader, even a charismatic one, is humility.”

Trump is not a values-based leader. His daily briefings are nothing more than public relations for his own ego, scapegoating everyone else and absolving himself of any responsibility.

It is not surprising, given Trump’s failure of leadership, that the U.S. has more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 60,000 deaths, the highest in the world.

Michael Smuksta of La Crosse is chair of the La Crosse County Democratic Party.

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