Guest Column

We are on our own. It is up to each American to make a decision: Are we going to follow the scientists and stay safe or will we follow the lead of the president?

I know this sounds harsh but this is a time for each of us to evaluate the facts as opposed to following a president whose every action seems directly linked to his own reelection campaign. Having found himself incapable of dealing with the coronavirus crisis, he has decided that his only path to reelection is to bring back the economy we were experiencing before we shut down to prevent its spread.

The CDC prepared guidelines for the reopening of our economy on a state-by-state basis. Scientists established criteria that states needed to meet in four phases. It did not take more than a couple of days for the president to abandon the guidelines; according to Harvard researchers, only nine states currently meet testing levels to safely reopen. It appears that, in an effort to save President Donald Trump’s reelection, we will follow the Swedish open-economy model after having begun with a shutdown similar to those implemented by Sweden’s next-door neighbors, Norway and Finland.

Sweden, a country of 10.1 million people, has suffered a total of 3,871 deaths; using deaths per 1 million in population, Sweden stands at 383.6, which is 6th worst in the world. When one combines Norway and Finland, their population total is 11.0 million and they have suffered 541 deaths with a per-capita rate, deaths-per-million, of 49.4. To put it simply, the Swedish approach has been an abject failure; their performance is 7.8 times worse than their neighbors.

According to the IMF, Sweden’s economy has fared no better than its neighboring countries or the rest of Western Europe, which remains mostly shut down. It is clear that Sweden is experiencing the worst of both worlds: Swedes are dying in large numbers and their economy is faring as poorly as nearby countries that shut down and have experienced far fewer deaths.

It has become clear over the past few weeks that following the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and the CDC is not a fit for Trump’s reelection ambitions. He appears to be convinced that, if he just ignores the number of resulting deaths, he can have that wonderful economy back before voters go to the polls. Trump, however, does not seem to grasp the enormity of a recovery from what amounts to a second coming of the Great Depression. We are not going to suddenly return to the economy of January. It is going to take at least a year and probably more for us to return to “normal.” In other words, Trump’s economic goal appears to be unachievable in the time frame of the November election.

It seems clear that a large number of states are going to follow the Swedish model with the endorsement of the president. To begin with, the scientists have stated that, in order for this to happen we need extensive testing and contact tracing, and we are clearly not ready to do so. While Trump claims that we lead the world in testing, he is referring to total tests, while we actually rank 20th in the world in per-capita testing.

We are already doing poorly in combating the coronavirus — 9th worst in the world at 291.3 deaths-per-million. Of late we are averaging 1,349 deaths per day, and this seems likely to be made worse by our own actions. At the current death rate, we appear likely to surpass 104,000 deaths by the end of May. For Trump, there appears to be no level of deaths that will faze him — he’ll just blame it all on the Chinese.

It’s not that Trump intends to kill us by pursuing his reelection interests; he just doesn’t particularly care if we happen to die. We will have to decide who to believe — Trump or his scientists. Our very lives are at stake.

Rich Belzer lives in Bend.

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