Tuesday, 14 July 2020 11:32

OP-ED: Regarding Covid-19: Leaders are important. Truth is necessary. Trust is basic.

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During a world-wide pandemic like the one we are experiencing, clear, understandable, and actionable health communication based on facts and delivered by trusted leaders can help motivate people to make choices that benefit themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

Conversely, during health crises, if leaders create narratives by ignoring, misrepresenting, or simply confusing facts, truth is compromised, trust is weakened and negative impacts follow. When a leader undermines experts and chooses to disregard fact based advice, those he leads may find themselves befuddled, not knowing who to believe or what actions to take.

Many Americans admire and trust our president. They follow his lead, betting their lives and livelihoods on his interpretation of the pandemic and his advice on how to mitigate and cope with its devastations.

The costs of following this leader continue to mount in lost health, wealth, and life.

I am shocked and disheartened by President Trump’s wishful thinking that Covid-19 will somehow miraculously disappear. His apparent failure to grasp the developing science around this novel pathogen is frightening. His inability to lead America through the narrow pathways that preserve individual liberty yet serve to promote good health for all, is a grave failure in my eyes.

I am a Republican who spent my professional life promoting good health for individuals and groups. I will not be casting my vote for President Trump’s reelection.

Retired Rear Admiral Penelope Slade-Sawyer is a distinguished former public servant who held the position of director of Public Health in North Carolina and was a senior consultant for the UNC School of Public Health. In the U.S. government, she served as assistant surgeon general and as deputy assistant secretary for Health, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In her latter role, she headed up the U.S. Public Health Service.