PANDEMIC LESSONS

Front-line health care workers and first responders in every corner of Oregon went to heroic levels to keep us healthy and safe during the pandemic. I am grateful. The proactive and early pandemic actions to slow the spread of COVID led to fewer deaths and less serious illness than in many other states.

That does not mean, however, that every policy and decision was necessary to achieve these results. The prolonged school closures were Oregon’s biggest mistake, especially after the first school year. Our kids lost two years of learning and suffered serious long-term mental and emotional impacts. Putting teachers ahead of seniors in the vaccination line – and then not requiring schools to re-open – was cruel and unfair, and it damaged public trust. Mandated business closures were frequently unnecessary and lasted way too long. Mask mandates lasted too long, and businesses were put in a no-win situation when they were required to be the enforcers.

Mostly, it was the unwillingness of state political leaders, especially Kate Brown and Tina Kotek, to recognize and balance the economic, education, and health care needs of the state instead of simply prescribing severe lockdowns as the only solution. I believe a central cause of this know-it-all attitude and one-size-fits-all policy approach was the nearly unrestricted executive authority used by the governor and the decision by the legislature to work remotely, which allowed them to remain isolated and apart from the people they represent for far too long.