Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., talks with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Joshua Hawley, R-Mo., during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP) Sen. Thom Tillis
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., talks with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Joshua Hawley, R-Mo., during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP)

A Siler City resident who’s at high-risk for coronavirus says, with lives on the line, US Sen. Thom Tillis should abandon the Republican Party line on coronavirus relief.

(Editor’s Note: David Freeman is a Siler City resident, former research geophysicist, and activist. The following is an op-ed shared with Cardinal & Pine by a consultant for Be A Hero, a national healthcare advocacy organization that seeks to persuade members of Congress about healthcare reform.)

Living with an underlying medical condition during the COVID-19 pandemic means infection could be deadly for both myself and my wife. 

Our ages and especially my chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma forced us into strict isolation since March 10th. We expected our government to take action and provide relief for citizens. 

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As I’ve waited these four months, it’s been shocking to see my Sen. Thom Tillis, passively follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has a ‘do nothing wait and see’ approach to the pandemic while over 143,000 people in the US have died and more people are dying each passing day; still, our Senator does nothing. With merely days left before the Senate takes their August recess, Tillis should demand we pass the next relief bill, the HEROES Act. 

The pandemic has changed my life as it has for many people. Unsafe to enter the grocery store, I have opted for curbside pickup, but other aspects of life do not have simple compromises. Our son recently became a foster parent. We had planned to be deeply involved, but due to the pandemic, I cannot help take care of the children in any way, even though they live next door. I’ve even avoided medical care for my COPD at times that I would have normally sought care, as well as postponed cataract surgery.

Luckily, I am retired with few debts to compound my problems, but many North Carolinians are suffering much more. I’ve lived in North Carolina for 25 years and have family roots here going back five generations. I care deeply about our community; and the truth is, our community is hurting. 

Whereas I am blessed with the company of my wife through all of this, we have friends with medical issues who are completely isolated. We’re concerned about those who are homeless and unable to obtain masks, medical care and food. I’m also worried about small businesses that desperately need our government’s help for survival. 

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North Carolina needs another relief bill. In addition to another round of $1,200 payments, the HEROES Act provides $1 trillion to state and local governments, $100 billion to provider relief funds, and strengthens the Payroll Protection Program and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. Rather than acting in the interest of the people he works for, Senator Tillis has opted to give his undying loyalty to Mitch McConnell, who said this bill is “dead on arrival.” 

In the midst of this pandemic — one which has taken the lives of more than 2,000 North Carolinians — we are being left out to dry by the man who is supposed to represent us. 

Senator Tillis, it was bad enough that you voted against the rural expansion of Medicaid, leaving North Carolina ill-prepared to face this pandemic. Now, we need you more than ever, and you’re doing nothing to advance a bill that would provide critical support and aid to our state. 

To pause in our fight and turn your back on North Carolinians to keep Mitch McConnell’s political goodwill would be to sacrifice your own constituents’ lives and livelihoods. Remember who gave you this job, and remember that you represent us. 

This is your chance to be a hero, Senator Tillis. Don’t let us down.