Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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We Need a Governor Who Will Protect, Not Jeopardize, Our Frontline Healthworkers

by Cora Neumann
| September 13, 2020 12:00 AM

Over the past month, several of Montana’s hardworking frontline health officials have left their posts after being harassed and intimidated for trying to keep their communities safe from COVID.

As a public health professional working on COVID, and who worked on the 2014 Ebola outbreak, I have witnessed health workers risk their own lives and safety to save ours.

It is exactly in moments like this when we need leaders who protect and reinforce those at the frontlines so our health workers and health officials can focus on the job at hand: protecting our communities from a virus that has killed over 160,000 Americans and is continuing to spread rapidly.

This November, I’ll be voting for the candidate that will stand up for public health experts, listen to the science, and place the safety of all Montanans above scoring political points. That candidate is Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney.

As our next governor, Mike will honor and protect those risking their lives to keep our communities safe. Mike is committed to investing in the requisite public health resources, supporting our medical experts, and making tough decisions when necessary to protect Montanans. Overcoming this crisis will require steady, clear eyed, serious leadership – that’s exactly what Mike Cooney brings to the table.

Meanwhile, his opponent Greg Gianforte spreads dangerous theories about defeating COVID-19 through herd immunity. Let’s not dance around what that would mean for Montanans -- in order for our state to achieve herd immunity through uncontrolled spread, conservative estimates suggest more than 10,000 Montanans – and potentially tens of thousands more – could die. That’s more than ~172x as many who have died already -- those are fathers, mothers, teachers, and nurses who Gianforte is suggesting we allow die to achieve herd immunity. That’s unacceptable and morally reprehensible.

This is nothing new for Gianforte - even after a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. was all but certain, he downplayed the virus, and he now claims that the pandemic is pretty much over, even as cases continue to mount. Not to mention, he hasn’t said one word about the importance of wearing a mask in public.Nearly 5 months after the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Montana, it is tragically clear that this virus is not going to go away on its own. If we’re going to beat this virus, it’s going to take all Montanans working together, following public health guidance, and listening to medical experts.

The criticism and abuse being leveled towards public health officials in Montana, forcing some to go so far as to resign from their posts, is causing all of us harm. Public health experts are working on the front lines, around the clock, to defeat this pandemic. They deserve and need our support and reinforcement, not to be burdened with politically motivated attacks, accusing them of doing anything other than doing their best to protect Montanans.

The Bullock/Cooney administration has done an outstanding job leading Montana through this unprecedented crisis. I couldn’t have more faith in Mike Cooney to continue guiding us through these dark times, by listening and adhering to the public health experts, rather than shunning and attacking them. For the sake of all Montanans, I ask that you join me in supporting Mike Cooney for Governor.

—Dr. Cora Neumann is a public health expert and founder of We Are Montana. Cora serves on the board of Columbia University School of Public Health, is a member of the COVID Local taskforce