Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tribune Review Editorial: The Virus Doesn't Recognize Political Parties

This editorial was first published in the Tribune Review May 29--

The most important thing people can have from their leaders in a time of crisis is the truth.
          They need to know that if they are told, “This building is on fire,” it is actually on fire. Conversely, they need to know that if they are told, “This water is safe,” that they are able to use the water.
          The Pennsylvania Legislature needs to borrow one of PennDOT’s big illuminated road signs with this simple idea and place it in the halls of the Capitol building as a reminder. Apparently it is the kind of thing that easily slips one’s mind.
          On Wednesday, House Democrats discovered that Rep. Andrew Lewis of Dauphin County was diagnosed with covid-19 seven days earlier.
          Lewis is a Republican. The House Republican caucus had been informed immediately, according to caucus spokesman Mike Straub.
          The Democrats were not.
          This is unconscionable.
          This is abhorrent not only because it weaponizes a virus that has paralyzed the state just as the state is emerging from its quarantine. It also sharpens the very edge of facts to make a cutting blade, with truth on one side and secrecy on the other.
           If we have reached a point in Harrisburg where it is not necessary to inform the opposition party that they may have been exposed to a potentially fatal disease, politics has turned down a blind alley from which there is no return.
          Because consider for a moment what this actually means. It means that the partisan nature of our state politics no longer allows for one side to see the other as the opposition. It demands that other side be the enemy.
          But keeping this information from the Democratic caucus did not just endanger the Democrats. It put at-risk people who came to their representatives in need.
          People who come to their representatives for help do so without thought of party. Republicans trying to get a loved one’s death certificate to file an insurance claim will need that help whether their official is GOP or not. Democrats trying to sort out an unclaimed property issue will not only ask for another Democrat’s assistance.
          And there is no excuse for the Republican caucus not realizing how this would be received. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was roundly chastised in March because he didn’t self-quarantine while awaiting coronavirus test results. He ended up testing positive, and possibly exposed other members of the Senate and staff in Washington as he maintained a normal schedule during the waiting period.
          While we cannot know exactly who may or may not have contracted covid-19 as a result of that exposure, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced Friday that he had tested positive for antibodies. Virginia’s Sen. Tim Kaine announced his positive antibody test on Thursday.
          This is not about party. This is about honesty and trust. We need more of both.

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