In many respects, we are living in unprecedented times. The entire world is focused on how to best deal with COVID-19. Dealing with an issue of the size and scope of COVID-19 will require the American people to clearly understand the truth.


Technically true, but misleading statements will not be helpful. We need leaders who are focused on getting us through this challenge in the best way possible. Unfortunately, there are often competing interests that get in the way of our leaders making the best decisions.


On April 17, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference to update Michiganders on the progress we are making in “flattening the curve” and in preventing “needless deaths” in Michigan from COVID-19. Here is a quote: “COVID-19, there’s no cure, there’s no vaccine, it is highly contagious and it’s deadly and none of us know how our body is going to react to it, what may feel like a fever and some achy muscles to me, could be deadly to my daughter.”


We should all spend some time reviewing the “truth” of this statement. It is true that COVID-19 has no cure, there is no vaccine, it is highly contagious and is deadly to some who become infected. At age 48, Gov. Whitmer has accurately described how she may feel if infected. It is also true that her daughter could die from COVID-19, although it is highly unlikely.


While the governor’s daughter (under age 20) could die, her daughter could also die from other infectious diseases, other natural or accidental causes. It is important to note that, as of April 20, only one Michigander under the age of 20 has died from complications related to COVID-19.


So, while the governor’s statement is factually correct, I think the statement about her daughter can and should be called into question because it is misleading. We are continually told we don’t know about how COVID-19 affects people. While we may not have known 30 days ago, we certainly do know now. International statistics, U.S. national statistics, statistics from the state of Michigan (average age of the deceased is 74) and statistics from Ottawa County all show the same, consistent data: COVID-19 deaths are highly concentrated in those 70s years old and older and those who have significant underlying health concerns. This is not an assertion on my part, it is a publicly reported statistical fact.


Using facts randomly to support your point does not qualify as leadership. By implying she would “get sick,” but her daughter “could die” implies a randomness to the potential victims of COVID-19. These types of statements can and do strike misplaced fear into the hearts of those listening to and trusting the governor to “give it to them straight.” The data (the governor often indicates we will use data to make our decisions) clearly indicates COVID-19 is anything but random. Was this simply a careless quote, or was it deliberately made in order to stoke unfounded fears about COVID-19 in the hearts of Michiganders?


We need truthful, actionable information from our leaders. Implying that COVID-19 is causing illness and death at random would support a “more restrictive” stay-at-home order (which is what we have in Michigan). Being truthful about those who are and those who are not at significant risk from COVID-19 would support a less restrictive stay-at-home order.


The governor would be much better served by explaining the actual, data-driven facts about COVID-19 deaths instead of using examples of how COVID-19 may affect her and her daughter. This could then lead to productive discussions about how to best protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and what the key considerations we need to make in order to allow those not significantly at risk for serious illness or death to be released from the current stay-at-home order and resume their normal, productive activities.


As I stated in the beginning, there are often competing interests that get in the way of our elected officials dealing with any given matter. I will let you decide on what competing interests our governor may have.


— Allan Hoekstra is a resident of Park Township.