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E DITOR We need to elect leaders who take threats seriously

To the editor: The pandemic we are now in should affect voter’s choices in the future.

In 2016 we had Global Health Security teams at the National Security Council and Department of Homeland Security with coordinated expertise at the Centers for Disease Control. This structure navigated us through MERS, SARS and Ebola with only a little excitement. Each of these infections is either more contagious or fatal or both than COVID-19 but were contained or eliminated.

The job the federal government did was exemplary.

In 2018 the Global Health Security teams at NSC and DHS were disbanded and the CDC global response team was eroded — with less staff deployed to 10 rather than the prior 49 countries. All of this leads to a system without a chain of command, exacerbated by a president who politicized the pandemic response and misled and still misleads the public at every turn.

A year ago, Alex Azar, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that what kept him up at night was fear of a pandemic. In December of 2019, the World Health Organization warned of this epidemic. Peter Navarro, the White House trade negotiator, warned Trump in January and said lack of preparation “would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil.” In a memo in February, he warned of 100 million cases and 1.2 million deaths if nothing was done. In 2020 the U.S. was one of the few countries that rejected the WHO offer of a COVID-19 test. We lost weeks in developing our own.

Medical experts knew that a complete but time-limited national shutdown early was the quickest and most effective way to truncate the epidemic, followed by extensive testing, and data analysis to determine next steps. This has not yet happened and resources are still insufficient for it to happen.

Economic experts knew the above and that maintaining individual household income and protecting businesses, particularly small business, from bankruptcy through direct cash payments to individuals and business would minimize the economic pain. We are passing bills to do some of this, but it seems to be too late and focused on big business and infrastructure that takes years to be realized.

We need to elect leaders who respect expertise, understand our risks, and allow decisions to be made by those with actual expertise – not political interests as their driver.

Dr. Douglas Lee Marshfi eld

Republicans sought to suppress voter turnout

To the editor: Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature went to great lengths to make voters go to the polls last week. Seventeen states had already postponed their elections and all-mail voting is done in five states, but rather than agree to a method that would maintain the integrity of the election and protect voters, the Republicans opted to force a face-to- face vote.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, wearing a face mask, gloves and protective gown, had the nerve to tell Wisconsin voters, “You are incredibly safe to go out.” More than 860,000 Wisconsinites didn’t believe him and voted absentee. Election personnel estimate many thousands of other electors did not want to take a chance and just stayed home. At least one voter has verified their fears and tested positive for COVID-19.

Wisconsin Republicans have severely gerrymandered the state to allow legislators to pick their voters. April 7 was their latest effort to suppress, rather than increase, the number of people voting. They were following the lead of President Trump. He said if measures to increase the number of people voting were enacted, “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

In this instance, Wisconsin Republicans thought a low voter turnout would help elect a conservative Supreme Court justice that, in turn, would vote to purge 209,000 people from the state’s voter rolls.

When Republicans prevented Wisconsin from postponing the election or going to a mail in election, they did so to reduce voter turnout, protect their political power and knowingly put the electorate at great risk.

Regardless of which candidates won, we all lose when there are efforts to stymie voting.

Anita Slone Neillsville