Letter to the Editor - What changed?

To the Editor,

A few short weeks ago I read in the Argus a news article concerning COVID-19 written by our county administrator. In this article the county, for safety reasons, was asking people not to travel to their summer cottages in Waushara County. If they chose to go to their summer home, they were asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

So, what’s changed? Has COVID-19 suddenly disappeared? Are there no more active cases of COVID-19 in Waushara County? Perhaps a new vaccine has been developed and has been widely distributed throughout the county.

Have we even completed enough testing to know the full extent of COVID-19 in Waushara County? Do we have a plan in place to do adequate contact tracing or have significantly expanded the medical capabilities in the county?

Perhaps the median age of the residents of Waushara County has dramatically gone down to the point where the majority of residents will not be in the higher risk category for COVID-19?

As far as I know the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no! So, what’s changed?

This past Thursday, Waushara County chose to re-open, replacing the state guidelines with recommendations from the county health department. While these guidelines are simplistic enough to follow, the question is whether they are adequate enough to protect the public. There was no information in the guidelines to say how they would be enforced, what would happen if a business refused to follow the guidelines or what would the county do if we experience a spike in the infection rate. We all yearn for the day when this COVID-19 pandemic is delegated to a paragraph in a history book. But in a rush to open, I fear we are destined to repeat the mistakes that got us into the situation we are in today.

 

Our national leadership chose to ignore the pandemic storm we all saw brewing on the horizon. Weeks of denial that there even was a storm coming cost the nation weeks of valuable time that should have been spent preparing. As a result of these actions, when the storm hit, our medical personnel and first responders did not have enough proper equipment to protect themselves and their patients. Our testing capacity was so woefully inadequate that as a nation we couldn’t understand the magnitude of the problem. Over 30 million Americans were forced into unemployment. The lines for food assistance have grown while vegetables are rotting in the fields and farmers are dumping milk and are unable to send animals to be processed because our national leaders failed to take the necessary actions.

Saddest of all, over 80,000 Americans have died in the last two months because of COVID-19. That number is projected to reach 150,000 by Aug. 1.

Contrast our national response with our state response. The Wisconsin leadership enacted a statewide stay at home policy. The policy was driven by science and the facts. the result of this policy was that we started to bend the curve enough to allow the gradual methodical reopening of the state and as of this writing, the death toll is just over 400 people. While this is still too many grieving families, the toll would have been much higher had we not responded as we did.

Then the State Supreme Court ruled that one state official did not have the power to extend the Wisconsin Stay at Home policy. The Supreme Court didn’t rule the pandemic away. They didn’t rule that it was safe to go about life as normal. What the State Supreme Court did was create an “every county for itself” mentality. We now have a patchwork of different policies county to county.

So, what has changed? The pandemic is still with us, it is still as contagious. The virus still doesn’t respect county lines and it certainly hasn’t become less lethal. As a result of this action we will be less safe going about our daily life. It won’t be any safer to visit grandchildren, give a hug, or go to church. In fact, the changes that we will experience a resurgence of the virus this fall will significantly increase.

 

This is a matter of life and death. Opening the county the way we have, risks us losing all we have gained to this point, substituting short term gain for long term pain and ignoring the lessons we have learned about this virus. I implore everyone to continue to show empathy for their fellow citizens and do your best to follow the guidelines set by the State of Wisconsin. Our shared sense of purpose must always be greater than our differences.

/s/Tom Stepanek

Wild Rose