Most politicians are specialists in concrete avoidance. They strive to sound like they know what they are talking about while using the language of avoidance.
Ever wonder how our public debt reached $26.5 trillion given that virtually no elected official will admit to preferring deficit spending? Yet real drama comes with an insistent reality; it carries demands and the coronavirus has and still presents plenty them.
The “let’s stop the spread of the virus” principles are well known. Masks, social distance, etc. are a never-ending refrain. And the science is quite clear. How many times have we watched hospital dramas and seen those attending a patient, in a surgical setting, not wearing masks? Didn’t we all grow up being told to wash our hands? Aren’t we all familiar with catching colds when around people who are sneezing and coughing? Do we need health care officials telling us what common sense is?
The answer should be no, but it’s not. Among us are people who want no impingement on their personal preference to be fools and we have politicians who do not want to write off the fool vote—thus concrete avoidance.
So we have the President and X number of Governors equivocating about the principles of stifling the virus. They are so accustomed to avoidance that even with real threats in the wings they can’t help themselves. But this time the feedback loop is fast, explicit and sometimes dramatic.
It has resulted in the President and Florida’s Governor being mugged by reality. You will recall President Trump decided to move the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because the latter would provide him the dream sequence he desires: adoring fans shouting “four more years.” The Duval County (home of Jacksonville) Sheriff has told the media, “Where we are today is we can’t support this plan,” USA Today. Sheriffs can’t avoid accountability.
Returning to the basics; wearing masks means freedom. Spending time with careful people means freedom. Strict rules compliance on airplanes means freedom. Ultimately, the freedom to return to houses of worship, concert halls and the like.
Maryland’s Governor took the lead for us. He faced the realities and bore the weight of accountability. There have been hot spots in Maryland, but there have also been areas where the virus footprint has been light.
Unfortunately, news that might offer hope for older people has been shadowed by the dramatic. News placement searches out drama and too often front pages have been turned into death notices. Older people are my peer group and I know of a number who won’t leave their houses.
Local public health officials, while insisting on safe practices, should also provide news that eases the mind. Inadvertently, causing older people to remain isolated is not good public health.
On a personal level, my wife and I were enjoying a meal in an outdoor setting several weeks ago. Friends of ours, four widows to be specific, had ventured out. Well after their meal had been eaten they were still there—lingering, lightening the mind.
Statistical profiles are mostly guided or completed by organizations that have a national or global mission. So we get a lot of big data points. But whether the big data point is international or local, death from Covid-19 is averaging less than 1%. Apparently the declining death rate is in part due to better case management and therapeutics like Remdesivir.
And that brings me to the question of schools. Ancient history, I went to elementary school when the principal question was what children might catch or bring home. My elementary days preceded the polio vaccine (1960), the measles vaccine (1963), mumps (1967) and chicken pox (1981). Now the most frequently asked questions seem to revolve around what the children might bring to the school.
What we do know is that most children bring promise to school. But we also know that the promise of a maturing mind is momentary. Schools can be opened protectively—we can protect a child’s future while protecting children, parents and school teachers. And, we can do it today.
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.