May 26, 2020

Praise and Blame

By Stephen Tuttle | April 18, 2020

COVID-19 has created plenty of opportunities for both praise and blame. We've seen people at their best, some at their worst, and are daily reminded of how inefficient the federal government can be.  
Let's start with deserved praise.
There are the first responders who are at risk on every shift but even moreso now. Every medical call now comes with another level of potential trouble. Law enforcement personnel must keep themselves safe from us while keeping us safe from them while keeping us safe from each other. Not so easy.
Healthcare workers are used to being around some level of contagion all the time. But not like this, and not without proper personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition to their regular patient load, they now try to contain an overload of infectious new patients. Their determination to stay on the job has come at a price; worldwide, 100 doctors and nurses have already died from the virus — 27 in the U.S. alone — and those numbers will inevitably rise. Healthcare workers account for at least 9,000 positive tests in the U.S. and fully 20 percent in Ohio.
Then there are the people we usually ignore, those stocking the shelves or at the checkout counter, and the drivers delivering those goods. They work with increased risk, too; at least six deaths and hundreds of COVID-19 infections. Without them, we'd have nothing to hoard.
The same goes for all those folks still making deliveries of packages and mail. And those working in the distribution centers sorting and arranging that mail and those packages. 
High praise for teachers trying to keep track of their students and figure out how to teach via long distance. Some students have been e-learning, or have that ability, for years. The challenge is reaching those students who do not have computers, and teachers have demonstrated some remarkable creativity in accomplishing that.  
Even people we usually criticize are praiseworthy. Some governors, mayors, and local officials of both parties (notably a Republican governor in Ohio and Democrats in Washington, Michigan, and New York) listened to the medical experts and were quickest to sound the alarm and take action in the face of some significant criticism. Told by the president to fend for themselves, they did, despite withering logistical problems.
And there were unexpected helpers, too. People sewing and creating PPE at home, distillers turning what would have been sold spirits into free hand sanitizer, manufacturers rearranging their operations to produce medical equipment and protective gear, restaurants providing food, and all the people keeping their distance and wearing masks to protect the rest of us.
Alas, there is justifiable blame aplenty, too. 
We have to start with China. They didn't create this in a lab or intentionally spread it — they rely on a worldwide economy, so crashing it would be foolish — but they waited at least six weeks after identifying the virus to tell the rest of the world. They have questions to answer, as does the World Health Organization (WHO).
But neither can be blamed for the ponderously slow response of too much of the rest of the world. Leaders in the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, and Spain, as examples, downplayed and dismissed the threat, despite a flood of warnings from medical experts. It is understandable that all were trying to protect their economies, but they prioritized economics and politics over lives far too long.
We now know President Trump received warnings as early as mid-December and increasingly more alarming warnings thereafter. His early public comments were full of rosy misinformation and nonsense when we needed an actual leader, not a cheerleader.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to accept responsibility for their initial, faulty testing. We still don't have any kind of coordinated national testing system, a result of the disjointed national response.
The governors who still have not issued stay-at-home orders have served to further spread the virus even in their lightly populated states, as South Dakota has discovered. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional Democrats aren't blameless, either; they criticized our government's one early, inadequate response as going too far.   
Of course, we always have the scam artists, hucksters, and fraudsters slithering around, selling fake cures and false hope. The price gougers are back, ready to exploit any disaster for a buck.
We've created an entire new community of heroes, people willing to step up, oftentimes at considerable risk. It's a shame we need them. Our national response is still pathetically inadequate. The widespread testing and tracing we should have started at least two months ago would now require a nearly impossible effort. We're going to have to wait for a vaccine.
In the meantime, much praise to all those helping. And much hope the folks in Washington, D.C., won't make things even worse.


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