Dumb versus smart, right versus wrong — as with most things, the “Rona” has driven us into the same old ditches we were already stuck in concerning gun control, abortion and whether Carrot Top should still be paid to perform. Now it’s about how to handle a pandemic.
The emergency situation created by the COVID-19 deaths across this state and nation have left many of us huddled with our political tribes, convinced of the mal intent of the other, which wants to kill old people, destroy democracy, put the economy before human beings, hide inside forever and wait for the government to take over everything, along with pretty much any other horrible thing that could be attributed to human behavior.
A lot of this disdain is just carryover from anything else we might disagree upon politically. Americans don’t see themselves as a unified people anymore, but rather as separate tribes whose sensibilities are incessantly trampled upon by those with whom they don’t agree. Compromise is capitulation. It’s not viewed as skillfully resolving a problem.
Probably a lot of that attitude is fostered by the cable TV “news” outlets, which have picked sides and seem to be reporting the same news from different planets. I don’t know anyone who watches FOX, MSNBC or CNN all day who isn’t adversely affected by the constant torrent of negativity and fear-mongering to fire up their base.
The joke making its way around the web is that cable news has done to our parents what they said video games would do to us. Based upon unscientific studies among my extended family, there’s some truth to it, but middle-agers and young adults aren’t immune to cable TV brain damage either, so don’t just push it off on the older generations.
I flipped on one of the aforementioned networks this morning prior to work for five minutes and immediately the doom and gloom settled back in. The battle over whether we’re opening too soon or not rages on.
A big part of that battle has come in the form of who should be in charge during a public health crisis. The obvious answer for one side of the equation is that doctors should be making all the calls here, and that seems like it would make perfect sense if there was a consensus among doctors and doctors weren’t prone to mistakes like the rest of us. While ceding nearly absolute power to a state or county health officer might seem like a great idea during a time of emergency, there are many components and consequences of shutdowns that doctors are decidedly not experts in.
The argument that putting someone in charge who is totally consumed with the health of one segment of the population, but oblivious to the condition of the other 99 percent, isn’t really the best option, is one that rages on.
Here in the Yellowhammer State, the Senate fell short in trying to pump the brakes a bit on the powers currently wielded by Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. The bill entered would have ended states of emergency after 14 days unless extended by the Legislature or a joint resolution by the president pro tem and the speaker of the House.
Would that make for a perfectly balanced application of science, social science and politics? Seems pretty unlikely, but it would definitely bring more voices to the table. This appears especially important for critics who believe Ivey has ignored the advice of her own COVID-19 task force.
I’ll gladly admit none of this is easy. If you have lockdowns as part of the playbook, then it opens the door to so many unintended consequences we haven’t dealt with before. If you don’t want people to get sick and die, but also think 34 million people being out of work in this country and starvation growing around the world isn’t acceptable, there’s no easy choice.
As we come out of our holes, reopen businesses and attempt to keep from getting COVID-19 all at the same time, uncertainty is the watchword. We hear it everywhere, mostly as it applies to a “second wave” of COVID-19 or the worldwide economy. But there’s also uncertainty in what our leaders will do.
Would a second wave cause Dr. Harris and Kay Ivey to put lockdowns back in place? Do you think you could get a straight answer to that question with a waterboard and a car battery? You might get a vague notion that something will happen if something else happens, but nobody is going to draw the proverbial line in the sand.
It’s the same locally, where last week Mobile County Health Office Dr. Bert Eichold said he sees no reason for further lockdowns, unless something bad happens. Fellow COVID-19 Unified Command leader Commissioner Merceria Ludgood also said she would support another lockdown if it’s required.
But we still have no idea what that means. It all sounds highly subjective.
And that’s more uncertainty when you consider all of the businesses that reopened last week and this week and next week. Would any of those owners hire anyone back or spend any money on their place with another shutdown in a few months lingering? “Hey, we know you’ve just borrowed a bunch of money from the government, but WE’RE from the government too and we’re going to shut you down again!”
So, it does make sense to mix the opinions at the table while making these decisions, and revisiting them fairly often probably isn’t a bad idea either. We’ve felt the sands shift beneath us several times now just in the past couple of months.
There’s nothing wrong with some checks and balances as we move forward. Who knows, some kind of compromises might even be found. Wait a minute! That’s far too positive an outlook. Excuse me while I go watch a little cable news and get my head straight.
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