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No grudges, just support for Biden


Former Vice President Joe Biden came to Southwest Michigan in October 2018, and his words and actions were used by Republicans to derail my campaign for Congress.

So what?

The politics of 2018 shouldn’t deter anyone from supporting Biden. I know some disagree because I still hear concerns about his “sabotage” of my campaign. I appreciate where this comes from, because so many people worked incredibly hard to get me into Congress. But Joe didn’t tank our campaign.

I wasn’t happy with what Joe did, but I understood it. He was proud of helping to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which was sponsored by Congressman Upton. The Cures Act had become the vehicle for Biden’s “Moonshot” to spur cancer therapy research, and it was the embodiment of his grief over the loss of his son. Joe was genuinely thankful for Upton’s work on “Cures,” and I don’t begrudge either of them celebrating their collaboration.

The frustration I felt stemmed from the public hearing more about incentives for drug development than the cost-saving, impactful, community-based interventions for cancer survivors that were also part of the Moonshot. Community-based public health is consistently devalued by politicians.

I support Joe for the same reason I went to medical school, and for the same reason I ran for Congress: a desire to improve the health and quality of life of as many people as possible.

Coherent public health and health care policy is what earns my political support. President Trump has had years to demonstrate any vision for health, and I challenge anyone to describe Mr. Trump’s plans as anything other than “repeal the ACA,” which would obviously be devastating to millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions or who don’t have employer-sponsored health benefits.

In contrast, Biden’s platform goes beyond just protecting the ACA. It is comprehensive and incorporates many lessons I’ve learned from 20-plus years working as a public health researcher, innovator and advocate.

For example, research shows where you live, work, play, pray and learn has a large impact your health. In response, we need a community integrated health system to address upstream causes of poor health and health inequalities through “clinic- to-community” partnerships and a greater focus on the prevention of injury, illness and death. Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative calls for the creation of a “Care Force” to create community health jobs, fund direct care services in local settings, and provide financial support for informal caregivers.

Additionally, Biden will expand Medicare as an option to cover more people with new benefits. This will improve and maintain the health of millions, many of whom have lost employment and employer sponsored benefits during the pandemic. Biden’s plans also include funding for widespread COVID-19 testing, support programs for older adults and vulnerable populations, and protections for frontline health workers.

Overall, Biden aims to improve our health system to save lives, reduce costs and health inequities, and to create jobs with community health benefits. Clearly, this is a better plan than anything offered by Trump.

Matt Longjohn Portage

Who is best for the economy, Trump or Biden?


Contrary to popular misconception, many studies have demonstrated that the U.S. economy does best when a Democrat is in the White House.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that in spite of Donald Trump’s boasts about his economic acumen, he has underperformed every president since Truman, including Barack Obama. Under Obama, Real Gross Domestic Product, which is the standard way to measure economic growth, increased at an average annual rate of 2.2 percent; under Trump, it has decreased at an average annual rate of minus 1.3 percent.

In all fairness however, COVIDhas had a significant impact on the economy, so we should consider Trump’s performance pre-COVID. Surprise, despite his bravado, he has still underperformed. The average annual GDP growth rate under Trump through February 2020 was under 2.1 percent. In the end, Trump has been a weak performer on economic issues. Every President must deal with the cards as dealt, and as voters, we need to consider the facts, and decide how much of the current economic downturn was unavoidable, and how much is due to mismanagement. The facts are that Trump has badly mismanaged the COVID crisis.

When COVID-19 hit, rather than mobilizing an effective national response, Trump called it a hoax and said it would “just go away.” Contrary to his fantasies, the virus has not gone away. The U.S. has the highest number of COVID cases and the highest number of deaths of any country in the world.

Many economists have told us that our economy will not recover until we deal with this pandemic, so handling the virus is handling the economy – they are inextricably tied.

As we cast our votes in the upcoming election, we can contrast Trump’s weak and ineffective response to COVID-19 with the strong, effective response of the Obama/Biden administration to Ebola and SARS.

Make sure you vote with the facts and not partisan emotions.

Ken Neumann Galien

Herd immunity strategy would be health disaster


As a physician who has treated critically ill COVID-19 patients, I am deeply concerned by recent reports that Trump’s new pandemic adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, is pushing a U.S. “herd immunity” strategy. This strategy means that we should abandon social distancing and mask measures altogether while allowing the COVID-19 virus to spread through our community.

The rationale of this approach is that individuals can build immunity through antibodies from infection instead of being vaccinated. Sixty percent of the country, or 200 million citizens, would need to be immunized through this approach for it to be effective. Furthermore, Dr. Atlas suggests that we could just quarantine patients at risk while the virus spreads throughout the community.

There are several reasons this approach is impractical and deadly for our community and the state of Michigan.

First, the price we pay for free virus community spread is innocent people dying. Sweden tried the herd immunity strategy, choosing to not initiate any lockdowns. They’ve now experienced 5-10 times as many deaths per capita as neighboring countries, and have pivoted to strict COVID-19 restrictions. Fewer than 10 percent of Stockholm residents now have COVID-19 antibodies – meaning that the goal of widespread immunity also failed.

Second, there is no way we can effectively isolate “at risk” individuals, as Dr. Atlas suggests. Fifty percent of the United States population has at least one risk factor, from obesity to diabetes, that puts them at higher risk of complications with COVID-19 infection.

Finally, beyond fatalities, the herd immunity strategy will lead to our health system being overwhelmed again. When I was working at the peak of the pandemic, we had at least 200 patients requiring ICU level care in my hospital due to COVID-19. We can’t let something like that happen again.

While I can only speak on medicine and public health, President Trump has shown that he has been an incompetent leader throughout this entire pandemic. Months into this pandemic, we are the only developed country that is still dealing with thousands of deaths daily. With advisers like Dr. Atlas, I am worried our nation will continue to needlessly suffer at the hands of reckless public health leadership. Vishal S. Arora, MD St. Joseph and Boston, Mass. Internal medicine resident physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Clinical Fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School

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