Gradually, I think President Trump is starting to realize that COVID-19 is about more than how the “numbers” impact his reelection effort. Unfortunately, it’s likely all of us have friends or family who aren’t taking the COVID-19 health emergency seriously and they will continue to go about their lives, doing whatever they want, regardless that they might spread this virus to many other people.
The numbers that worry me are how many COVID-19 hospitalizations in communities around the country might overtax hospital systems. The US is still in the midst of flu season, which has resulted in many hospitalizations and deaths. Hospitals around the country have only so many ventilators and so many ICU beds, so hopefully our crisis leadership at all levels is carefully assessing the numbers of ventilators in hospitals, the number of ICU beds and planning for the worst case scenario. If we plan for worst case and it doesn’t happen, the greater the likelihood we will be able to avoid unnecessary deaths, which is the number that matters most.
David French wrote a very heartfelt piece, Coronavirus and Our Sacred Duty to Senior Citizens, about our moral duty to protect and care for those most vulnerable to COIVD-19, but he hits on something more we must do:
“But we must do even more. We must defend those we love from fraud and fear. And by fraud I don’t merely mean the standard array of scammers and hucksters who typically prey on our nation’s seniors. I mean defending them from terrible counsel from the very people so many millions of seniors trust.
I’ve written at length about the inexcusable avalanche of misinformation that for weeks cascaded out of the Oval Office and conservative media. I won’t repeat all of the false comparisons of COVID-19 to the flu or the common cold, all the president’s false declarations that the virus was already diminishing or thoroughly under control, or the claims that hyping the virus was yet another media conspiracy to undermine the president. But that misinformation was delivered to an audience that was disproportionately older and disproportionately likely to disbelieve contrary information.
The president’s declaration of emergency and the joint public/private show of force at Friday’s White House press conference should at least start to dispel the belief held by all too many seniors that there was nothing to worry about, that they shouldn’t change their plans. After all, the person and the information sources they trust the most had told them this entire crisis was overblown. The result is stories like this:
Friend grieving tonight because he can’t convince his aging, unhealthy MAGA parents that the virus threat is real. They’re about to get on a plane and head off to vacation. “I said my peace to them,” he said. “What else could I do?”
America’s toxic partisan spin war, where competing “narratives” outweigh common sense and common decency, makes it very hard to figure out facts, analyze information through the clouds of noxious spin being churned out by bleating gasbags on both sides and it leaves many Americans vulnerable to making poor personal decisions based on deliberately dishonest partisan spin. The spin warriors score cheap political points at the expense of the welfare of ordinary citizens, who tune into American media in hopes of being informed.
With the corona virus pandemic, I’ve watched what’s being reported out of foreign countries and the numbers. The serious concerns and dramatic actions taken by many countries to stop the spread aren’t all reacting to American political spin. I suspect their health experts and intelligence agencies are providing information to these governments, which has raised the alarm level. President Trump has taken dramatic action on travel restrictions, while at the same time blathering on and on repeating garbage right-wing pundit spin takes, downplaying the situation. He is the champion at mixed messaging or in common parlance, talking out of both sides of his mouth. Numerous Trumper pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, have been blustering on for weeks about how COVID-19 is no more serious than the common cold. Many elderly conservatives believe this and will not listen to any warnings now.
Everyone comes at how they view this situation from their own experiences, beliefs and knowledge base. My husband’s sister died a year ago from a viral infection she contracted. Another sister, got sick at the same time, as did some other family members. The sister who died, got very ill very quickly. She did have some underlying health issues and she didn’t seek medical care immediately, believing it was just some bug that would pass. Several days into it, she was taken to the ER, but she deteriorated rapidly in the ICU (pneumonia that led to multiple organ failure). Within a week from getting sick, she died.
My husband has late stage COPD and he got much worse in late January, after catching some bug. I also developed an upper respiratory infection after he got very ill. I recovered, but he is now on home hospice care and completely bed bound. We have hospice nurses and CNAs, who make home visits several times a week to manage his care, but the rest of the time I am learning how to adjust to handling full-time hospice care. I have diabetes and heart problems. This corona virus definitely raised my worry level immediately, because I was already trying to keep my husband and myself away from exposure to a lot of people. The “social-distancing” was already the new normal for me since January.
A couple weeks ago, when I heard about possible supply issues with medications due to America being reliant on drugs from China, I checked our prescriptions and got 90 day refills on all the ones I could. When other countries started doing lockdowns and restricting travel, I began stocking up on groceries and essentials (truthfully stockpiling grocery basics is something I do ordinarily.) That’s me – the worrier. I did not have to go out this weekend for the mad shopping panic, because I have been stocking up a bit more than my usual stockpiling, for more than a month. I have some family members though, who are pretty much blowing off COVID-19 as just media hysteria.
Recently, I read Radical Inclusion: What The Post 9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by General Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman. The major theme of their book is about how crucial radical inclusion, making everyone in a group feel included and that their contributions and efforts matter is the crucial leadership challenge, especially in our rapidly changing digital information age. In dealing with a global pandemic, we need leaders, at home and abroad, embracing this radical inclusion mindset and realize that we, or people near and dear to us, are at risk from COVID-19 and the many ways this pandemic can impact lives.
Of course, we all need to carry on with living our lives, but we can still try to be aware that other people’s very lives may depend on mitigation efforts taken now, before this virus spread peaks or devastating outbreaks overwhelm some of our hospital systems around the country.
We should all do what we can to help those around us.