Chip Minemyer

Chip Minemyer

On the day before I learned my mother had tested positive for the coronavirus, I received an email from the office of U.S. Rep. John Joyce with an opinion column from the congressman about COVID-19.

A passionate plea for his constituents to take the virus seriously as cases climb, and to wear masks and embrace other safety measures to protect themselves and their families?

No.

A moving tribute to front-line health workers – doctors, nurses, aides and others – who are risking their own safety to care for the sick during a raging pandemic?

Not at all.

Instead, the newly re-elected member of the House of Representatives offered up a pompous, partisan proclamation that ignored the realities of the impact of COVID-19 and also the abject failure of our federal government to address the disease sufficiently and responsibly.

Being a dermatologist, perhaps Mr. Joyce struggles to see and address problems well below the surface.

But as a doctor who has presumably taken the Hippocratic oath, you would rightly expect him to hold high the pledge to prevent diseases when possible and treat diseases fully when faced with that duty, respecting patients and their families. 

On the subject of COVID-19, Joyce and others in Washington, D.C., have engineered an unmitigated train wreck of carnage and grief.

However, as if preaching from the pulpit, Joyce wrote of the successes of the “Operation Warp Speed” effort, and of course President Donald Trump – through whose leadership “a miracle is coming.”

Hallelujah!

If a fresh photograph of the congressman had accompanied this diatribe of misguided arrogance, I’m sure tears would have been coursing down his cheeks.

Now, you might say I’m taking this issue too personally.

Frankly, I wish more people would.

COVID-19 is personal to the families of the nearly 12 million Americans who have contracted the virus.

The virus is personal to the families of the quarter million people in the United States who have died due to complications brought on by the disease.

The coronavirus is personal to the families of Pennsylvanians affected – approaching 300,000 testing positive and 10,000 dead.

And this disease is deeply personal for people across Joyce’s district – where infection levels and fatalities are climbing daily, but where many people still refuse to follow minimum guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19.

A proper letter from a doctor-congressman to his constituents could have done so much good. If only ... 

On the day before I learned my mother had tested positive for the coronavirus, I replied to Mr. Joyce’s communications director, and suggested a less political approach to virus commentary might be more useful.

I reasoned:

• Saluting the companies and scientists who are developing vaccines and improved treatment techniques was a great idea.

• Sowing political division rather than offering sound counsel from a medical professional and elected representative was neither prudent nor productive.

The response: “Since this is a health care issue, Dr. Joyce feels strongly about his argument and chose his words intentionally.”

Sad, maddening – but not unexpected.

For months, his response to this issue has had little to do with “health” or “care.”

Division and partisanship matter more to this politician than actually helping his constituents navigate a deadly virus.

Saving the face of his party matters more than saving lives across his district, the state and the country.

Yes, this virus is personal. But not just because I learned the a day before writing this that my own mother had tested positive for COVID-19.

This is personal because of the efforts of so many who have responded to the virus properly – making masks by the thousands, delivering meals, teaching online – and sacrificing personal comforts for the greater good.

This is personal because of all the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, who continue to fall prey to this killer virus while those in power trade blame for the rising case counts and bicker over who should get credit for the good being done by the scientists and medical professionals whose efforts fall outside the self-serving realm of politics.

Except for one man who, as both doctor and elected official, is uniquely positioned to bridge that gap and effect positive change in our country’s approach to the pandemic – both the government and the governed – and save lives.

If that were just his goal.

Hippocratic or hypocritical?

That answer is clear.

Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat and TribDem.com, and CNHI regional editor for Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio. He can be reached at 814-532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.

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