July 20, 2020

Miller-Meeks touts Trump’s unproven anti-malarial drug


This week we celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The OAA funds many social service programs that keep older adults healthy and independent.

Important pieces of this legislation include evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs. The Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans believes our elected officials are failing us on evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention.

One of the most important factors in preventing coronavirus is accurate information. Shutting down the economy was a difficult decision, but we were facing a new virus with no known treatment or cure. The world is on a learning curve looking for best practices and treatments to stop the spread of the virus. It is understandable that mistakes could be made but unforgivable that best practices are ignored.

The Trump administration squandered precious time downplaying the seriousness of this virus, shifting blame and failing to develop a national response. Initially, experts didn’t know asymptomatic people could spread the virus, and many believed young people were immune. Public health experts learned COVID-19 is most infectious soon after infection and less infectious later; they also recognize asymptomatic transmission and the importance of masks.

As older people take this virus seriously, wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing, the average age of infection is dropping. But we can’t do this alone. We are all in this together and are only as strong as our weakest link.

We should be able to trust our elected officials to act in our best interests, but President Trump has repeatedly shown us why we cannot. From touting unproven drugs to disregarding the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and experts’ recommendations, decisions are being made for political reasons rather than evidence-based science. Republican politicians are falling in line behind the president rather than following the health experts. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a physician and state senator running for Iowa’s 2nd congressional district seat, even recommended taking the anti-malaria drug Trump was promoting. Miller-Meeks quickly deleted the post after public criticism.

As of July 15, there were 759 deaths from coronavirus in Iowa; of those deaths 399 were people who lived in long-term care facilities, and 87% of these deaths are of people 61 and older. The Trump administration has not required OSHA to issue guidelines or emergency regulations to protect workers or nursing home residents, but Iowa’s Republicans acted quickly to protect employers and nursing homes. Miller-Meeks and all our local Republican representatives voted for the Iowa corporate immunity law that will make seeking justice much more difficult, if not impossible. Survivors would need to prove the nursing home or employer intended their loved one to get sick or die.

This is a national emergency that requires a national response, or absent a national response, a state response. We applaud the Scott County Board of Supervisors for strongly recommending that people wear masks in public. Unfortunately, Gov. Kim Reynolds tied their hands from requiring masks.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said she would prefer people in “hot spots” wear masks but does not support a mandate. She also said, “… we have to learn to live with the coronavirus…”

It is hard to learn to “live with the coronavirus” when it is quite literally killing us.

We can’t control this virus by chasing hot spots. As long as people are free to move about without taking common-sense precautions the coronavirus will not magically disappear. Our representatives need to live up the the goals of the Older Americans Act and support evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention.

– Kay Pence, Vice President, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans

This article was originally published in the Quad City Times on July 16, 2020.

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