As cases creep up quickly in West Michigan, a rural ER doctor worries how national politics risks another tragic wave of coronavirus infections.
WEST MICHIGAN — Cases of the novel coronavirus are ticking up in West Michigan, even in rural hospitals. One ER doctor at a rural West Michigan hospital is concerned about how politics will change those infection rates. He’s calling President Trump’s leadership “criminal.”
That doctor, Dr. Rob Davidson, has been an active voice during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Appearing on MSNBC last week, Davidson answered a question on Trump’s absent concern over lacking proper testing as dangerous, especially as people were determined to break social distancing directives.
“It’s just criminal that the President isn’t leading on this,” he told MSNBC.
In the days since that interview, a lot has transpired.
Protests in Lansing risked spread of the virus. Tuesday’s daily statistics showed a rise in new diagnoses and West Michigan, where Davidson works, has started seeing drastic day-over-day increases in infection. And in spite of this, both Lansing and Washington Republicans are pushing for an end to stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the virus’ spread.
Trump even tweeted a call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” over the weekend.
“I think Trump’s leadership had been absent at best, and his actions have undermined the hard work being done by healthcare workers and local and state leaders,” Davidson told The ‘Gander. “I think his LIBERATE tweets embolden a very small minority and make it more difficult to open up as we all desire. It is dangerous and undermines all of the hard work we have all done to ‘flatten the curve’,”
That small minority emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric has already taken action. Calling their effort ‘Operation Gridlock’, Republicans blocked access to Lansing hospitals, disrupted efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by ignoring social distancing and carried assault weapons.
“I am concerned that the Lansing protests likely exposed a significant number of people to SARSCov2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) who then brought it back to their communities,” Davidson said. “We will not see the impact of that for a few weeks.”
That will be squarely in the window where Republicans want the state back on a path toward normalcy, and they seem resistant to any concerns about a second wave of infections that may already be underway if Davidson is right. The ‘Gander reported that Republicans in the legislature oppose extending the fairly popular stay-at-home orders that have proven effective in fighting the virus.
That’s fighting a policy from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that has been popular with a majority of Michiganders, including Davidson. Though the state has had struggles, notably with high caseloads and little access to personal protective equipment (PPE), Davidson praised her handling of the crisis.
“I think Whitmer has been decisive,” he told The ‘Gander. “She has forsaken political expediency to do what is right based on available data and proper science. She is in a bad place because she has drawn the ire of Trump, so that seemingly hampered her ability to secure certain equipment early on. She is still in a tough spot competing with other governors for swabs and reagent and PPE.”
Davidson also leads an advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Medicare. The Committee’s mission goes far beyond Medicare, however, including any and all forms of affordable care. In a time of pandemic, that work is also vital. Not only because more people are sick, but also because Michiganders are becoming unemployed at record-setting rates.
“With massive job loss, many more individuals will be without employer sponsored insurance,” Davidson told The ‘Gander. “I think it is a good time to talk more about public investment in not only public health infrastructure, but healthcare in general. We either need to expand Medicaid with 100% Federal funding, or expand Medicare to include those who lost insurance.”
As for his own hospital, the lack of access to testing that The ‘Gander reports might slow Michigan’s recovery overall is a specific concern to Davidson.
“My concern is that we open up before we do adequate testing to know the true numbers, and if certain at risk populations get exposed, we could very quickly become overwhelmed,” he said. “We are a resource limited critical access hospital.”