COVID-19: we are clearly not up to par

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editorial-opinion1
Jack Bernard, guest columnist
Jack Bernard, guest columnist

As a government and private sector healthcare executive for 30 years, I can guarantee you what MDs and healthcare authorities are generally saying amongst themselves: government has botched the Covid-19 crisis on all levels, but especially the federal level.

Per several reliable sources, we know the current projections for controlled versus uncontrolled growth of COVID-19. We know that some nations, like Singapore, are doing things right. Some, like Italy, are doing it wrong. And we know that we are on the same miserable path as Italy and Europe, as various projection studies indicate.

The President, intelligence agencies, the FDA and the CDC all bear major responsibility. Contrary to his misleading (to be tactful) statements at his 4-1-20 press conference about our response being “stronger than other states,” so does our own Governor bear responsibility due to his relatively weak initial response versus other more enlightened Governors.

Up until 4-3-20 when his new emergency order took effect, Kemp appeared to be willing to sacrifice the lives of elderly Georgians for economic reasons. Thank goodness, he finally came to his senses and on 4-2 issued a firm “Shelter in Place” Executive Order (covering 4-3 until 4-13), joining 42 other states (finra.org)

Similarly, the Mayor of Peachtree City had earlier issued a weak Emergency Order. It had numerous holes in it compared to the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) model ordinance which declared a much broader “Public Health State of Emergency.”

Among the PTC shortcomings: restaurant in-dining was still permitted; day care centers were still open (still are), as were hair and nail salons; gyms, fitness centers, pools, etc.

It should be noted that the Governor’s earlier, looser proclamation had restricted these locations and public gatherings to fewer than 10 people. Then, for some unknown reason, the Mayor felt it necessary to put that 10-person restriction in her weak proclamation, although that was already part of Kemp’s state-wide mandate.

Further, the GMA recommended that a clear “chain of authority” be established in the local ordinance in case one or more elected officials become incapacitated. That has not been done here. Plus, emergency supply chain procedures are recommended, such as sole sourcing scarce products (i.e., no bidding). The PTC Emergency Order does not provide for such exceptions.

It’s unfortunate that our City and County did not move earlier to make needed changes to curtail the spread of the virus locally. Our local government must not just “hope and pray,” sitting back now while saying later on that we didn’t know what was going to happen regarding the spread of COVID-19, as Kemp did in his press conference.

Of course, that is exactly what our President continues to misleadingly state in his press conferences/campaign rallies regarding his inexcusable inaction in February and most of March regarding production/distribution of tests, masks, ventilators and so on.

He has had the means of production available to him under existing law and … until very recently with GM, Ford and 3M … just refused to act.

On the local level, why did PTC’s Mayor feel it necessary to bypass the City Council and issue a watered-down version of the inadequate earlier Kemp COVID-19 proclamation on her own? Why wasn’t her proclamation stronger and more comprehensive, along the lines of the GMA recommendation and Kemp’s current “Shelter in Place” order? Only the Mayor and the City Council can answer these questions.

More importantly, we must do what we can right away here in Peachtree City and Fayette County to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on our community and families. We should be aware of Kemp’s new “shelter in place” order and follow its mandates. The time to act is now, before the virus spreads further into our homes.

[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.]

10 COMMENTS

  1. Which “professionals and experts” should we be following? Perhaps you’re unaware, but they don’t all agree on what steps to take in this matter or on any other one.

    We are taxed enough already – if the gov’t stopped spending fortunes on PC silliness, pork-barrel projects and handouts to their friends it wouldn’t need to take so much of our money. In the midst of a crisis they jammed millions of dollars into a “Relief” bill for PBS, NPR and the Kennedy Center.

    In some cases gov’t is the problem.

  2. Mr. Bernard’s letter seems on mark to me and I appreciate Councilman King’s advice that we (AND our leaders) should should follow the advice of the professionals and scientists. Our very conservative coummunity should also take time to reflect on how their attitudes of mistrust toward the role of government have fed into the current situation that can be described as chaotic at best. When you view “government as the problem” and elect public officials who implement policies that deconstruct important government functions in the name being “Taxed Enough Already” this is the price we all pay. In the near term, we all should heed the advice of the professionals and scientist and ingore the nonsensical blustering of the impeached bully in the White House. By doing so we will all get through this shared world-wide crisis sooner.

  3. FWIW I shouldn’t have said “hate President Trump” in my original comment – “strongly disapprove of” would have been more appropriate. Apologies for that, I’ll try to be more careful with my language, no need to be unnecessarily provocative.

  4. Actually the weakness in being prepared for COVID-19 rests with not following the recommendations from the H1N1 pandemic back in 2009. Funds were allocated for all sorts of life sustaining gear, but somehow the priorities changed and ended up being reallocated. Some may blame the federal government, some may blame the individual states both are certainly your prerogative, but rest assured America will retool to get this crisis behind us.
    My suggestion is simple: Stop the blame game until we’re beyond this crisis, and follow through on the recommendations of those professionals who actually know what they’re doing.
    After all, four months ago many on social media were constitutional scholars, and now all of a sudden they have morphed into epidemiologists.

  5. One other point re: when we should have started doing very big & expensive things. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in late January “This is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about.”

  6. Regarding the claim that nothing was done:
    January 6: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel notice for Wuhan, China due to the spreading coronavirus
    January 11: The CDC issued a Level I travel health notice for Wuhan, China
    January 17: The CDC began implementing public health entry screening at the 3 U.S. airports that received the most travelers from Wuhan – San Francisco, New York JFK, and Los Angeles
    January 20: Dr Fauci announces the National Institutes of Health is already working on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus
    January 21: The CDC activated its emergency operations center to provide ongoing support to the coronavirus response
    February 3: The CDC had a team ready to travel to China to obtain critical information on the novel coronavirus, but were in the U.S. awaiting permission to enter by the Chinese
    February 6: The CDC began shipping CDC-Developed test kits for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus to U.S. and international labs
    All this in an environment where the Chinese government was covering up the problem with the assistance of the WHO.

  7. The story that we declined tests from the WHO has been debunked.

    I re-read the article and I still don’t see much in the way of specifics, just “more, sooner”.

    I agree that the Feds have been chaotic and made plenty of mistakes, but so has every government agency and bureaucracy, this time and every time they deal with a crisis. It is the nature of the beast. Our ability to increase testing has been hampered by the bureaucracy insisting on following protocols, again, the nature of the beast.

    President Trump stopped incoming flights from China on January 31. At the time Democrats called him a racist and xenophobe as did European leaders. Then they did the same. On February 24 Nancy Pelosi led a tour group through Chinatown on video to encourage people to come join the party. On March 2 the mayor of New York encouraged people to go out on the town and in particular recommended going to the movies.

    When President Trump stopped incoming flights from Europe they howled, then shortly afterwards they started closing their borders to each other.

    On January 14 the head of the WHO stated that there was no reason to institute a travel ban, ever.

    The House of Representatives had its first hearing on the Wuhan virus on March 4.

    President Trump has been far ahead of other political leaders in dealing with this.

    At this point there is still a great deal we don’t know about the Wuhan virus and what steps we should be taking. A nationwide lockdown may turn out to be a good idea or it may turn out it should have been done already, but we may never know. A lot of the decision making depends on one model that hasn’t been vetted and has very limited data. There is another model which shows less dire results but it has been pushed aside.

    I think both the Governor and the President have been wise not to rush to lockdown the country. The impact of that on people’s lives is significant and it shouldn’t be done lightly.

  8. The author of this article is actually very detailed about specifics. I work in healthcare and can say that the federal government has been unorganized,chaotic and less than helpful. Lack of widespread testing has been a major issue from the beginning. Narrow testing guidelines from the CDC were a barrier beyond that. Then there has been consistent misinformation coming from daily press briefings stating people who want to be tested can be tested, Google was setting up a website to facilitate drive through testing, inconsistent information about who should and shouldn’t wear masks. The CDC,once a leader in the world for guidance about evidence based medicine and infectious disease, put out advice that healthcare workers could use bandanas and scarves as masks as a last resort in the setting of mass supply shortages even though there is no evidence this will provide any degree of protection for front-line healthcare workers. This isn’t about “hating Trump” and nothing was mentioned regarding this in the article. The fact is that he was briefed by intelligence agencies in January that this was going to become a global health crisis and that China wasn’t being forthcoming with data about the disease. He had information at that time and it was only after the first patient tested positive in the US that he made the first action, which was to discontinue travel from China. Nothing else was done during that time. We didn’t stockpile PPE (we actually shipped PPE to China)and we didn’t start manufacturing ventilators or even check to see if the ventilators in the national stockpile are usable (most need maintenance). The WHO offered us tests to get started and we declined these.
    All of this has handicapped our response as a nation and as a result will likely lengthen the amount of time it will take our country to “flatten the curve”. We still have a handful of states not on lockdown. A man in Iowa had an auction for horses that drew a crowd of 600 people the other day. People came from multiple states to buy horses. This virus doesn’t respect boundaries or borders and will continue to thrive and affect us all until we are all on the same page and being asked or required to follow the same stay at home orders.

    • Thank you for that insightful reply Dandelion77. I might add that there’s a lack of understanding too in testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As you know, there’s molecular testing (the most prevalent test) and there’s serological testing (for antibodies). Since both tests were developed by numerous companies and fast-tracked and approved for use, the question remains what will be the rate of false-negatives from testing? That number could be as high as 30% according to experts within laboratory science and the clinicians.

      Add this number of symptomatic patients (those that now think they have just a bad cold / allergies) to the 1 in 4 “people” that are asymptomatic for the virus, but would test positive for it if tested (according to the CDC), and you still have vast numbers walking about in public infecting others. That’s why it makes sense to stay at home, heed the advice of medical experts, and stop the spread of COVID-19.

  9. Three things seem to be clear here:

    Your article is very light in specifics, mostly “they should have gone a little further or acted a little sooner”

    You hate President Trump

    You seem unaware of the fact that bad economic times (unemployment, bankruptcy, etc.) result in higher rates of suicide, homicide, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression, pretty much any social pathology you can name. So, perhaps shutting down the economy isn’t pain free or just about money.

    No matter what course any elected official takes there are going to be a lot of deaths from the Wuhan virus and tremendous economic pain. The opportunity for Monday morning quarterbacking doesn’t get any easier than this.