Public health officials are schooled in understanding the risks posed by viruses and the actions required to minimize the loss of life. Governors carry the ultimate responsibility for keeping their citizens safe but are also influenced by political concerns. It adds up to a considerable amount of pressure.

This coronavirus is not the first we have faced in this century. Ebola was worrisome as the death rate among those who were infected was high. Fortunately, it only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids so it was readily contained. We also had SARS-CoV, which was spread by airborne droplets and had a high case fatality rate of 11%. Fortunately, the virus proved to be containable by isolation of the cases and it never spread in the U.S.

By the time the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. in January 2020, public health officials had gained some experience with virus containment. A task force established by President George W. Bush researched the 1918 flu pandemic and discovered what had worked in locations that had performed well as opposed to those that saw high numbers of deaths. They quickly determined that rapid action was critical as once there is an initial death, it is likely that there have been thousands of infections. Other key measures? 1) Close schools as children are in close contact which encourages transmission. 2) Isolate the sick and 3) Socially isolate everyone to the greatest extent possible.

The problem for public health officials is that they don’t know much about a new virus — how fast it is able to spread and by what means and how deadly it will be. They know that if they hesitate, they could end up in a deadly situation with a rapidly spreading virus. If they act quickly, they might be embarrassed should the virus prove to pose little risk. A slow response might allow a highly dangerous virus to spread rapidly and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Given that the job of a public health official is to keep people healthy, their inclination is to err on the side of minimizing risk.

Governors, on the other hand, must deal with an electorate that is certain to be upset with the disruptions caused by actions they may take to minimize the impact of the virus. As we have seen, restaurants and bars close, parents are forced into staying home with kids and millions of people lose their jobs. From a political point of view, governors are better off taking as little action as possible and just letting people die. After all, those who survive are likely to complain about a shutdown of the economy while dead people don’t have much to say.

Let’s take a look at how well our governor, Kate Brown, did at keeping Oregonians safe. As of July 5, 2,781 Oregonians have lost their lives to COVID-19. This places us at a per-capita death rate (per 1 million in population) of 659.4, fifth best in the country.

Florida took a more liberal approach to coronavirus containment. If Oregon had the same per-capita death rate as Florida, an additional 4,678 Oregonians would have died from COVID-19.

Texas took a more liberal approach to coronavirus containment. If Oregon had the same per-capita death rate as Texas, an additional 4,881 Oregonians would have died from COVID-19.

Kristi Noem is the governor of South Dakota and is considered a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024. Her approach to the coronavirus was to take no containment measures whatsoever. If Oregon had the same per-capita death rate as South Dakota, an additional 6,935 Oregonians would have died from COVID-19.

Those who remain upset with Kate Brown need to consider how they and their families might have fared had she followed Kristi Noem’s approach. How many family members, yours and mine, might not have survived without Kate Brown’s actions? She is clearly an Oregon hero.

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Rich Belzer served as director of federal marketing for a NYSE-listed computer company and was subsequently a senior executive with two NASDAQ-listed high-tech companies. He moved to Bend to join Columbia Aircraft where he became VP of worldwide sales.

(7) comments


I can't tell if Mr. Belzer has a grasp of statistics or not. Is he naive or manipulative? When one plots infection rates of every state or even comparing countries around the world, the research articles I am aware of can't discern an advantage to mandatory measures, a la Kate Brown. So this is a lesson in how easy it is to see what we want, but isn't actually there.


Pretty simple math by Mr. Belzer, Skit. Nothing manipulative or naive about it.

Texas / 1822 deaths/million for a total of 52,822. We'd have 7652 dead if we'd followed the same lead. Idaho / 1211deaths/million for a total of 2165. 5086 for Oregon if we'd followed their lead. Lockdowns and PPDs worked. No article will state as you do about mandatory measures not working to some extent. Nice deflection though.


Yes you repeated the math used by Mr. Belzer. But did he use the best information or provide any significant analysis as to the many factors influencing transmission rates, case rates and infection rates? No, he did not. Mr. Belzer is a dilettante. One can not interpret the statistics without knowing how they were arrived at. The data he provided was extremely limited and he didn’t tell us how he selected it.

What if we compared 10 restrictive (mandatory lockdown measures) countries with 2 less restrictive countries that were more voluntary, not just a few cherry picked states? Essentially no difference could be found between mandatory measures and voluntary measures on infection rates. I would think comparing countries in a more rigorous analysis by Covid researchers is more convincing than Mr. Belzer’s napkin review. There are of course weaknesses in the study that we could discuss, but this platform is a bit constraining. They did try to look at the infection transmission rates before and after restrictive measures went into place in the same country and even then couldn’t find evidence of ANY effect.

European Journal of Clinical Investigation:

Here’s one on surgical masks in addition to other measures (see article above). The researchers powered the study to detect a 50% reduction of transmission, but the study was negative. However, this doesn’t rule out a less than 50% reduction OR comment on the likelihood of serious infections with a mask.

Annals of Internal Medicine:

Now here’s my main point. I don’t go by superficial logic aka “common sense”. I find the best quality information I can find, then draw a conclusion. See the difference between you and I? I work at critical thinking, not critical race theory. The also could be said comparing my understanding of history and yours.


Not seeing the forest for the trees are you Skit. While you’re caught up in research papers about spread rate (not the point of the article whatsoever), you miss the real point. It’s about deaths in states where a more laissez faire approach was taken to C19 management with concurrent higher death rates than Oregon due to Brown’s decision making.

I’m not surprised at your pooh-poohing of Mr. Belzer as a dilettante for his “napkin review” of the cold hard facts. While throwing out deflective articles about spread rate as a counterpoint you show your lack of concern for the lives lost nationally. But then again you believe the KKK and BLM are very similar entities while conveniently ignoring the history of both ( gotta love your belief that one group that lynched, burned crosses, supported sundowner laws, etc, etc, etc… are sooo similar).

“Critical thinking, versus theory.” Yeah sure.


Well at least you can write a couple of paragraphs. So far as not seeing the forest for the trees, do explain how taking a worldwide view of mandatory restrictions compared to voluntary restrictions is missing the forest for the trees?

If you think I missed to the "real point", then I think you missed my point. Is it not that Mr. Belzer is giving Governor Brown credit for her "actions" yet I quote research which was unable to find objective evidence that the mandatory restrictions had any effect whatsoever on transmission rates. He is completely assuming causation between her mandates and the infection rates. Consequently, giving Governor Brown kudos for actions that harmed the economy, yet provided no health benefits based on minimal, out of context, cherry picked "hard cold facts" seems to have escaped you. Shall I attribute this to your intellect? To emphasize, the articles I cited are clearly pertinent and are not "deflective", as they directly counter the claims made in the opinion piece.

So far as BLM, you also missed the list of the similarities to the dudes in pointy white dunce caps. They both are similar in that they divide based on race, one race is inferior to the other, both believe in segregation, and both believe in violence to achieve their aims. Even the BLM flag has a raised fist, very similar to a n@zi salute - brilliant if I say so myself. BLM riots have resulted in deaths, ironically many of them black. They have also advocated for defund the police, which is also contemporaneous with a massive explosion in multiple types of crimes. Are you aware of the increase in shootings and deaths in Portland, primarily of black people? They are set to break records of deaths of black people yet where are your protests now? Seems odd to "protest" and then achieve the exact opposite results. I thought violence against black people was a bad thing, at least it is in my opinion, but apparently not yours. At some point you have to make up your mind and make a choice as to what is really more valuable: genuinely helping Dark toned people or oppressing and using them for your personal gain and ego.


Once again Skit, a nice denial comment, and you still don't get the point of Mr. Belzer's column. It was very simply laid out. Maybe too much for you. You had to counter a statement about the horrible number of deaths our nation has suffered with disease spread and mandatory measures? Not worth anymore time on this one.


Entirely agree. And Oregon continues to boast low Covid-19 incidence due to our stellar performance in getting folks vaccinated.

With few exceptions, states with more stringent pandemic policies fared better economically in 2020 as measured by their gross domestic product, according to the latest UCLA Anderson report.

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