Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, has noted that with infectious diseases you are always behind. Translated, we do not know as individuals the likely trajectory of Covid19 and of most concern the health care professionals do not know. At least they are humble enough to say so and informed enough to talk intelligently about the variables.
I watch with some pain much of the news. Most news professionals are generalists; if they are better informed than their audience, it is about what questions to ask politicians. And that brings me around to my opinion.
Unsolicited advice to President Trump. You do not want to play Sun King when unknowable is in charge. It is like betting a single number in roulette. And in your case you are betting lives.
Similar advice to the media. Send your reporters to our good allies, South Korea and Italy. Their systems and institutions are relatively open; they think well of us and will share their insights. And most importantly, their cycles are ahead of ours and we can learn from their scrambles to adapt. Similarly watch our domestic hotspots.
A signal advantage of our federal system of government is diversity of response to challenges; it is our laboratory. Cover the daily show from the White House, but cover much more what is happening on the domestic front lines. It is on those vivid lines that lessons will be first learned and hero’s first discovered—in short, that is where much of the real drama is located.
The numbers today, and I am typing on March 29th, show that many more young people are showing up in the statistics. It is no wonder. For weeks the elderly have been told the virus is lethal. Let’s see, should I go to a bar at the risk of death?
Conversely, the message to the young has been the reverse. The content of messages makes a difference and those who don’t know should be very careful. I will add, given circumstances, partisan name-calling is not only boorish but radically counter-productive. Hyper-partisan content is by its very nature laden with divisive and often misleading content.
We also need to understand our own weaknesses. We are inclined to hear what we want to hear and particularly if it is spoken by somebody we like. My advice: listen to Governor Larry Hogan. First, he checks his ego at the door. Secondly, he draws on some of the best health care professionals on the globe. Third, he is Chair of the National Governors Association. And finally, he is our neighbor.
One Further thought: the multi trillion dollar rescue packages will more than double the national debt. We are exceedingly fortunate as the U.S. dollar is the dominant international currency, giving us the most important economic crisis asset: liquidity. If we don’t want to lose this extraordinary advantage, we better move more and more of the response to hardship to neighbors caring for neighbors.
Even with the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the White House taking unprecedented actions to shore up the nation’s financial health, there will be many business and household shortfalls.
There is an online application referred to as crowdfunding or “go fund me.” We need to collectively put it to use so that those with liquidity can help those without.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.