PORTLAND, Oregon — Many local doctors and leaders are asking the public to change their holiday plans, forgoing large holiday gatherings because of COVID-19. They're also trying to head off one local politician's social media post promoting her decision to do the opposite.
“Comments like that are frankly irresponsible," said Dr. David Zonies, a critical care physician at Oregon Health & Science University. "It is a poor understanding of the seriousness of this disease.”
Zonies' concern was in response to a Facebook post by Clackamas County Commission Chair-elect Tootie Smith. Smith shared that she planned to defy Governor Kate Brown’s orders to limit holiday gatherings.
“My family will celebrate Thanksgiving with as many family and friends as I can find,” wrote Smith. “Governor Brown is WRONG to order otherwise."
Zonies worried how others would receive Smith’s post.
“Publicly making statements of that nature is a disservice to the community and is a disservice to the public at large,” said Zonies. “It puts people at risk, it puts people at risk of getting ill, it puts people at risk of coming to our hospital and overwhelming the system.”
Smith later doubled down on her post during an interview with FOX News.
“I think our people have the intelligence and the education to make their own decisions,” said Smith. “We are adults. We do not need to be treated as second rate slaves in our own homes.”
KGW made multiple requests to interview Smith. She agreed to speak with us but did not follow through.
Smith’s words have already prompted talks of a recall effort. Peter Lund lives in Oregon City and suggested one in a letter to the editor of The Portland Tribune. Lund's wife is a nurse and has seen the deadly impact of this pandemic, first hand. For Lund, Smith's words are personal.
“I would ask [Smith] whether she's willing at her big family gathering this weekend to get on Zoom with some of the healthcare providers who are in the COVID ICUs and missing Thanksgiving,” Lund told KGW. “I think they could use a little pick-me-up.”
Zonies said despite what some may think, healthcare workers' warning against large gatherings isn't political.
“This is a public health measure, this is caring for each other, caring for the public,” said Zonies. “It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is, the science is the science.”