We have been fortunate in that none of our family or close associates and friends that we know have gotten sick from COVID-19. As we sit at home attempting to construct some level of normalcy, I struggle with the magnificent failure of a system that is incapable of meeting the needs of its citizens. A system that has prioritized economics over public health. While the government, in record time, is pumping trillions of dollars into the economy to stop financial Armageddon, it has failed to put American infrastructure muscle into providing for the health needs of its citizens.
Everyone I know (except maybe our president) is frustrated with the daily reports of shortages for masks, gowns, ventilators, test kits and other vital supplies. The United States has the largest global economy and has a history of responding to threats like no other country. There are many examples of where the collective might of this country responded to economic and financial threats. We have proven time and time again that when we put our minds to a problem, it gets solved. We have failed to do that in this pandemic. Why?
Much time will be spent on answering this question. Politics, ineptitude, narcissism, pettiness, weakened manufacturing infrastructure and many other things play a role in this answer, but the fundamentals are clear to me. In this great country, we have failed to step up, pull together and implement a multi-pronged approach in response to this pandemic. We have not listened to the experts, learned from what other countries have done or put together a cohesive strategy for how to get out of this mess. There is no strategy for how we are going to get back to work and protect employees and customers. Instead, we are leaving the governors and business leaders of each state with the task of figuring it out. I am sure that every governor is going to do the best they can with the resources and knowledge (or lack of) they have at their disposal but there are going to be mistakes. It reminds me of a Three Stooges episode where Moe and Larry use the famous motto of Alexandre Dumas “One for all and all for one” while Curly adds “and every man for himself”. We see that in spades today with our three stooges: The executive Branch, the Senate and the House. This is a classic example of Anti-Strategy where a lot of well-meaning people are attempting to optimize their own situation because they don’t have a footprint to operate from.
While thousands of people are demonstrating individual resolve at home making masks, working on new designs for ventilators, donating supplements to front line workers, etc., we have demonstrated complete and total incompetence in putting our collective muscle to work. Why aren’t manufacturing companies whose sales are down double digits being engaged to make ventilators, test kits, swabs, gowns, masks and other essentials? Their employees are doing it at home on their own dime. CEO’s of hospitals are forced to compete to get basic supplies. Our current approach and attitude toward this pandemic demonstrates our incompetence as a nation and global leader. We as citizens shouldn’t stand still and accept the incompetence of our national leadership. We need to rethink how we are going to move forward and “Make America Great Again”.
The recent protests to reopen are misguided and premature. What is likely to be over a hundred thousand deaths from this pandemic should be enough to force a national referendum to act responsively. People should be protesting and demanding a unilateral approach to reopening the economy that protects their health first and their jobs second. South Korea, China, Sweden and even some sub Saharan countries have put together response plans that appear to be effective while we are unable to. The gun lobbies, the ACLU, NAACP, NRA and other proactive groups should ban together demanding a unified approach to getting us all back to work safely. The silence is deafening.
Without a well thought through “get back to work strategy” made up of best practices gathered from around the globe, our patchwork response to reopening the economy is going to be a failure, possibly leading to a second wave and many more deaths. We are acting like deer in the headlights, frozen and unsure what to do. A lack of faith in our national and local approaches will cause many of us to be unsure of how to behave going forward.
This could continue to cripple our economy for years to come, and while many of us will do ok, the “every man for himself” approach will leave us weakened and despondent. I don’t hold out much hope that we are going to demonstrate global leadership because we are so divided and myopic in our thinking. Such a sad state of affairs for such a great country who is acting more like a third world country than a global leader.
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