Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran—the rare politician who pulls double duty as an emergency room physician—has thought often over these past months about a quote from everyone’s favorite headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore.
“There are all kinds of courage,” Dumbledore says at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
Drawing upon her medical background and feedback from fellow health care workers, Meieran has had to summon her courage again and again, spending hard-won political capital pushing back against natural Democratic allies—including Gov. Kate Brown—for what she sees as an incomplete response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with life-or-death consequences. (She’s still mourning that Brown’s definitive stay-home order didn’t come before the first weekend of spring break, when Oregonians jammed beaches and trails.)
On social media and in public forums, she spoke out against Brown’s decision to allow the construction and manufacturing industries to stay on the job even as most of the state’s workforce pushed pause on business as usual. And as the first surge recedes, Meieran says she’ll turn her focus to lobbying for universal COVID-19 testing at nursing homes and assisted-living centers—the places where concentrated death tolls have been highest, even as the state has limited testing to those who show symptoms of the virus.
“There are so many aspects of this that require a whole different structural and strategic approach,” says Meieran, who in the May primary election cruised to victory for a second term on the Multnomah County Commission. “I try to take that into account and be patient. But at a certain point, I felt like in this situation, lives really were at stake, and every day that we are not taking the bold, assertive actions that it was clear we should take, we are risking lives.”