Recently, my opponent Brian Boquist posted an op-ed in the Oregon Catalyst lamenting that "the headlines have failed to mention the negligence of the elderly population in Oregon" during the COVID-19 pandemic. While I agree with Mr. Boquist that the "elderly in Oregon deserve better", I was deeply disappointed in how he presented his argument and tried to score cheap political points out of a tragic situation. I am sharing the original post for you to read here, and invite you to put on your critical thinking hat and join me in looking at where Mr. Boquist misleads his target audience.
Mr. Boquist writes that "over half of the tragic deaths from COVID-19 have been Oregonians ages 60-80+". While technically correct, note that Mr. Boquist does not cite the source of this statistic, nor does he put this information in context. That should be a red flag to the reader. According to my campaign's analysis of the CDC data (as of Aug. 12th), right now 82% percent of Oregon's COVID-19 deaths have been in the 65+ age bracket. That is marginally higher than the national rate of 79%; however the likely culprit here is not government negligence but the simple fact that Oregon's population is on average older than the rest of the United States (according to Census data).
- Here's the good news that Boquist decided to overlook: because Oregon has taken an aggressive stance against the coronavirus pandemic, Oregon's COVID-19 absolute death rate for the 65+ age bracket has been 0.36 deaths per 1,000 seniors. Compare that to the national rate, which is 2.23 deaths per 1,000 people in the same age bracket (you can calculate these numbers yourself using publicly available CDC and Census data). We must remain vigilant and always strive to do better, but so far Oregon has protected much of our elderly population from the worst of this disease.
Mr. Boquist writes that "in mid-May, the federal government asked all states to test residents and staff in nursing homes. Oregon has continued to lag as the elderly have been ignored. Workers and residents in large senior care homes will not be tested for COVID until September 30, 2020." What he fails to acknowledge is that federal government negligence has also made it unnecessarily difficult for coronavirus tests to be manufactured and distributed. Meanwhile, despite limited support from the federal government, Oregon has already conducted tests in a number of these high-risk nursing homes, while the relatively lower-risk assisted living homes will be tested next.
- While Republican and Democratic state senators must work together to hold Oregon's governor responsible to a high standard, Mr. Boquist's attacks on Governor Brown throughout the piece (while conveniently turning a blind eye to the failures of our federal government, mostly led by members of his own party) are clearly partisan and shows that Mr. Boquist does not care about accountability to the people, but instead only wants to advantage himself and members of his own party.
- Mr. Boquist writes that he is "dedicated to serving and protecting all Oregonians". While I do hope Mr. Boquist lives up this promise, his recent behavior suggests otherwise. During the June special session of the Oregon Legislature, Mr. Boquist was one of only two senators from either party to not wear a mask. It is now common sense that wearing a mask is the best way to protect others from coronavirus transmission. By not wearing a mask, Mr. Boquist risked exposing his colleagues to the coronavirus, each of whom later returned to their home communities, potentially causing even more transmission across all of Oregon. Only sheer luck saved us from Mr. Boquist's petty defiance.
I believe that all Oregonians deserve to be protected from COVID-19, and we must take extra care to keep our seniors and other high-risk populations safe from this deadly and life-altering disease. Leadership does not mean writing fear-mongering op-eds designed to scare older voters into checking their ballot boxes one way or another. Rather, protecting Oregonians of all generations will require cooperation: not just of federal and state governments stepping up to pay their fair share, but also local community leaders and individual Oregonians each doing their part to protect their neighbors. As your state senator, I promise not to pass blame and deadly misinformation, but instead to stand up for the facts and for fairness. And together, until this disease has been eradicated from Oregon, let us promise to protect each other by committing to wear masks when in public.
[UPDATE] Sept. 26 — Since we published this post in mid-August, the Oregon Health Authority has published a COVID-19 dashboard for increased transparency. Our campaign's analysis appears to hold up given these new statistics directly from the state. We encourage the Oregon Health Authority to keep doing what it can to make this information publicly available while also protecting patient privacy.