“I would love to have the country opened up, and rarin’ to go by Easter;” “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” Trump asked. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country … I think it’ll be a beautiful time.” — President Donald Trump on Fox, 3-24-20
“We need to be thinking in terms of months, not weeks.” — Doctors Ezekiel Emanuel, Susan Ellenberg, Michael Levy, New York Times, 3-24-20
“I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now it is going to be over. I don’t think there is a chance of that.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH, 3-20
Who should we believe, the Commander-in-Chief, the health authorities or our local elected officials? The public is understandably confused.
Some governors have taken it seriously. Many, like New York and California, have shut down their businesses to stop progression of the disease. Others, like Governor Kemp of Georgia, have taken a more casual approach, permitting hair salons and others to remain open and hoping/praying it won’t spread.
And Fayette County, the 17th hardest hit county in Georgia, is following our Governor’s lead. So, is it just a bump in the road or has the road caved in?
A University of Washington chart (NPR, 3-12-20) would reinforce the pessimistic viewpoint expressed by the experts. We have been ridiculously slow to make our nation shelter in place and test our population.
There are nations that have not responded well, like Italy, where there has been much heavier morbidity and mortality. Our projected epidemiological curve is similar to that nation, where the pandemic is an out of control disaster.
Our response is not like that of Hong Kong or Singapore where the pandemic is being better contained by following the orders of the healthcare authorities. Other projections have been even more aggressive as to the spread here.
Our experts were originally indicating that we are 12-18 months away from a vaccine. But with extensive efforts, it may be sooner. However, we currently do not know how effective the vaccine will be … or if the “resistors” (like Rep. Nunes) will finally acknowledge the pandemic is real and get the shot even after it’s developed.
I was speaking to a close friend about the pandemic. He’s in a high-risk group, but he’s a blue-collar resister, ignoring the “shelter in place” restrictions. I couldn’t figure out why until I read the results of the 3-25-20 Pew Research survey entitled: “Americans who primarily get news through social media are least likely to follow COVID-19 coverage, most likely to report seeing made-up news.”
Now, it makes sense. My buddy is a MAGA hat-wearing Trumper who is heavily into social media. In fact, that’s his primary news source, others who think just like him about the “deep state” and other right-wing conspiracies.
For people who get their news via cable or TV, 94-95% of them watch news about the pandemic very/fairly closely. But, with Americans getting their news mostly from social media, the figure is only 80%. Plus, only 37% of the social media folks take it very seriously versus 65% that get their news via cable. Further, of the social media folks, 57% believe that the news about the pandemic is either partially or mostly fabricated.
On a state level, Gov. Kemp should be doing what more activist governors have done. Mandate state-wide closing of all but essential businesses and services. But he seems to be more worried about political consequences versus healthcare.
That brings us back to where we are nationally. The Trump administration’s only major accomplishment has been a great economy and stock market. The economy and market have crashed, even though there was a slight rebound.
Trump apparently cares little about the healthcare aspects of the pandemic. However, he does care about how it effects his electoral prospects. Unless the economy rebounds quickly and dramatically, Trump will not be reelected, although his poll numbers are up short-term due to people wanting a savior.
The bottom line is that unless the American public makes its feelings known, Trump will reverse our “shelter in place” mandate for a “good luck and pray if you get sick” policy after Easter which will spread the COVID-19 virus and kill even more Americans.
[Jack Bernard of Peachtree City is the former Director of Health Planning for Georgia and has been a senior executive with several national healthcare corporations. He’s also the former Chair of the Jasper County Commission and has been on two Georgia county Boards of Health. Opinions expressed by our guest columnists are their opinions, and do not necessarily represent those of this news site.]