Battling this pandemic requires confident, coherent and consistent leadership.
We have all heard or seen the quotes and sound bites: “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.” “It goes away in April with the heat.” “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” “I really get it. People here are surprised that I understand it... Maybe I have natural ability.” “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
Then on May 11, 2020, after over 80,000 deaths we heard: “We have met the moment, and we have prevailed.”
The very next day Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, warned senators that states and cities face serious consequences if they open up too quickly, urging states not to reopen until they know they have the capabilities to handle an inevitable uptick in cases once they relax stay-at-home orders.
It should be apparent to all that we are lacking the national leadership to seriously fight and defeat this COVID-19 virus.
Dr. Michael Osterholm is an epidemiologist and internationally recognized expert in infectious disease, preaches science and takes an unbiased position in regard to political matters. He has served as an adviser in the Bush Administration and has served both Democratic and Republican governors. Osterholm wrote recently, “Of all the resources lacking in the COVID-19 pandemic, the one most desperately needed in the U.S. is a unified national strategy, as well as the confident, coherent and consistent leadership to see it carried out. The country cannot go from one mixed-message news briefing to the next, and from tweet to tweet, to define policy priorities. It needs a science-based plan that looks to the future rather than merely reacting to the latest turn in the crisis. When leaders tell the truth about even near-desperate situations, when they lay out a clear and understandable vision, the public might remain frightened, but it will act rationally and actively participate in the preservation of its safety and security.”
As scattered groups of protesters have staged loud demonstrations in favor of rescinding quarantine orders, recent polls find that a majority of Americans believe it won’t be safe to stop following social distancing guidelines anytime soon.
Most state leaders acknowledge they have not met many of the key benchmarks federal guidelines recommend before reopening, such as having robust systems in place for testing and tracing the contacts of those who are positive for the virus.
We all want our lives to get back to something that resembles normalcy, and we want our economy to begin to thrive again. But it will have to be based on the scientific and medical facts. Without people feeling safe, the economy won't get going. To accomplish any of this, the president would need to dispense with happy talk and instead actually convey what experts are telling him. He would have to define the new normal for a frightened nation that is looking for facts, direction and a common purpose.
Remember this in November when we're going to vote like our lives depend on it.
Editor’s note: Both the Hubbard County DFL and Hubbard County Republicans are invited to write columns for the Enterprise’s Opinion page.