By the time this letter is published, Highlands County will record 100 or more deaths due to COVID-19. In addition, more than 2,000 households in our community have had their lives turned upside down, as they watched love ones suffer, but survive.

With 20/20 hindsight, we now know that, if our country had governed as smartly as countries such as Germany, Taiwan, Australia and others, we could have saved as many as 100,000 lives. If that ratio is applied to our small community, it suggests that perhaps 50 of our neighbors might be alive today.

Some of us tried to convince President Trump and our elected state and county officials to have the courage to put aside politics and replicate the successful models. It should have been easy given our abundance of scientific assets.

We failed, and I want to offer my condolences to those who lost loved ones. I feel some guilt: If we had done more, lives might have been saved.

We are not done with this battle with the virus. People who know more about science than Donald Trump estimate that, if we continue with current policies, we could double the number of deaths by Jan. 1, 2021. Getting President Trump out of the picture is the easy part. We can simply vote him out. Wouldn’t it be ironic if COVID-19 ends up saving our democracy?

In his preface to Profiles in Courage, JFK wrote, “The true democracy puts its faith in the people — faith that the people will not simply elect people who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect people who will exercise their conscientious judgment — faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor and ultimately recognize right.”

We lost 100 lives in Highlands County, but it is not too late to save the next 100 if our state and local leaders “exercise their conscientious judgment.” 

James Upchurch