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A commemorative coin should honor victims of COVID-19, not fund private-sector philanthropy

My opponent wants to commemorate first responders with a coin; I want to offer them safer solutions out of the pandemic.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — I am responding to Rep. Jack Bergman's (R, Mich) opinion piece written in The Hill on Tues. Oct. 26 "Honor our frontline responders" with the Coronavirus Front-Line Responders Commemorative Coin Act.

I was a frontline worker from Feb. 2020 until Oct. 2020, serving my county in Iraq and Ethiopia as the Embassies' physician. My colleagues and I don't want a commemorative coin to fund private philanthropy. They want the world to move beyond a pandemic. Commemorative coins are a time-honored tradition. Historically they've honored Sacagawea, Women's Suffrage, Apollo 11, the Civil Rights movement, and so much more. It's critical we commemorate the totality of this era in history.

This coin should honor all who died from COVID-19 — nursing home residents, grandparents, parents, children, personal caretakers, first responders, and grocery store workers, to mention a few. A coin should commemorate all those who have lost a friend or family member. In many ways, nearly all of us have suffered.

Historically, coins generate just a few million dollars. My opponent plans to give the profits to fund the CDC foundation—a non-profit organization to mobilize private-sector philanthropy in support of CDC public health missions. This effort is insufficient and does not protect us from the next threat. Funding public health will. This is where I disagree with Jack.

The CDC and our public health infrastructure need sufficient resources to protect us now and in the future. Maintaining these programs is the job of the government. Adequately funding these resources is how we can effectively and efficiently use necessary tax dollars. A few million dollars profit from selling a coin is grossly insufficient for any meaningful, sustainable public health mission.

I propose we use the funds generated through the sale of the coin to create a memorial in our Nation's capital. We will not forget.

The U.S. federal government needs to invest billions annually—probably $20 billion—to protect us from the next pandemic. As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Larry Brilliant, who worked to eradicate smallpox, said, "Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional."

Let us invest our public health dollars in working for us. It is estimated that effective public health measures would cost a fraction (2%) of another pandemic, avoiding economic collapse, suffering, and needless deaths.

  • The role of the government and our tax dollars is to protect and serve us.

  • Public health should be funded adequately by the government.

    • I appreciate the idea of creating a commemorative coin to honor the work of the frontline responders, but I disagree with the allocation of funding.

  • We should not rely on philanthropy to meet the responsibilities of the government.

  • We must be better prepared next time.

Jack still gets it wrong and doesn't understand the real issues. If his gesture is genuine, it contrasts with his opposition to nearly every other COVID-19 mitigation strategy. My opponent has not demonstrated leadership during the pandemic and is not a champion for vaccines in a manner that would lead us effectively out of this challenging time.

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Dr. Bob Lorinser is running for Congress against Jack Bergman in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. He is the Public Health Medical Director for Marquette County.


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