A doctor’s COVID-19 message to our leaders: Shame on you

covid-19 mask
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Shame on you, Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips. Arizona has broken another daily record for new COVID-19 cases and our hospitals are reaching capacity, some of them already closed to new patients. Rather than supporting health care workers, who risk their lives every time they provide care to a person infected with this virus, or protecting the more vulnerable of our population, you hold a protest, encouraging your constituents not to wear masks despite a county-wide mandate and community-wide spread of the coronavirus. 

If that wasn’t enough, you stood on a stage repeating the phrase, “I can’t breathe”, mocking the death of George Floyd while further spreading the myth, repeatedly debunked by science, that face masks deny users of oxygen. 

Shame on you, Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy. You refused to make a city-wide mask mandate, stating, “I think it’s sad that some put their safety in the hands of a mayor, councilmember, or governor.” You suggested that if individuals felt they were at risk, they should “stay home.”  You overlooked two key facts: EVERYONE is at risk, and many of our medically fragile population MUST go to work in order to survive and to maintain insurance benefits.  

In an email to me, you stated that you would consider a mask mandate if “things were to escalate.” When a patient has cancer, we don’t suggest they wait until it has metastasized through the entire body to initiate treatment. How many more people must die for you to take action?  

Shame on you, Gov. Doug Ducey. You didn’t wear a mask in public until you received pressure from thousands of local health care workers. But even then, you were too cowardly to use your power to require mask use in public, leaving city officials to make the difficult decision. You attended the June 23 Trump rally after disembarking from Air Force One without wearing a mask and without social distancing. 

In doing so, you sent a very clear message to the public that masks, though mandated in roughly 75% of the state and scientifically proven to reduce the spread of the virus, are not important and that people can continue to do whatever they want, thereby spreading COVID-19 like wildfire. You remain apathetic in staying the spread of COVID-19, and by attending the rally, you are complicit in compromising the safety of your constituents.

Shame on you, President Donald Trump. You continue to undermine the messages from every physician, epidemiologist and public health official regarding the gravity of this disease and the severity of its spread throughout our country. We are not almost out of the woods as you suggest; we are very much tangled in the branches of this haunted forest. Our country, the one you claim to be making great, has become a public health lesson in what not to do during a pandemic. You continue to spread blame and hate in an effort to redirect attention from the dying.  

Arizona is experiencing a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Rather than do what you can to help our great state, you plowed ahead with your rally, unmasked, after which we will see many more sick and dying. You refuse to wear a mask because you think it’s a sign of weakness, when the opposite is true.

Shame on me. I didn’t speak up sooner. I forgot that there is power in numbers, as demonstrated by the voices of so many health care workers pleading for more mitigation. I quietly cried rather than demand change. I didn’t do enough while 600 fellow health care workers died on the frontlines and almost 126,000 Americans died at the hands of this pandemic. 

Leadership should not be about political advance and popular opinion. A true leader makes difficult decisions based upon evidence, despite the disapproval of some. 

You, our leaders, have ignored the science and the pleas from medical providers worldwide. You were all entrusted to keep us safe, but instead chose to focus on the few and sacrifice the many. A true patriot vigorously supports our country, prepared to defend it from enemies. I cannot think of a worse enemy than the one that has killed more Americans than WWI, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as those lost in the Wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the terrorist attack of September 11.