Our opinion: Realism is badly needed in COVID-19 decision-making
America – state by state, community by community – is doing everything it can to avoid making tough decisions on the spreading COVID-19 crisis.
Some point out that when you mix politics and science you get politics, and sadly it's politics – not the facts at hand – that so many have embraced. The absurd politicization of face masks, for example, is just a means of rationalizing the behavior of those who don't want to be bothered with the good of the community.
In the spring, many leaders chose half measures against COVID, then backed off too soon and let this disease, after a brief drop, take off. Individuals in the millions chose to ignore common sense and common decency with a reckless disregard for the facts at hand, even as there is good evidence that tens of millions more have done what they can to keep themselves and others safe. But we are all paying the price for the actions of the irresponsible.
Missouri is now among 21 states on the federal “red zone” list, and it's bordered by Kansas and four other “red zone” states, meaning hospitalizations are on the rise and measures such as statewide mask mandates should be considered.
This crisis is specific to the Kansas City area as well.
“If we do not act quickly as a community and region, future shutdowns will be inevitable,” metro area health directors said in a statement just days ago. They noted the rise in hospitalizations and the dangers arising from an “uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.”
It is said, without evidence, that crimping the economy is worse than the disease itself. It is said, without evidence, that keeping kids home from school is worse than the disease itself. When it's safe, kids do need to be in school, and businesses do need to be open, but creating false equivalencies is just rationalizing the choices people want to make – from opening school to sitting in a bar to playing football. Our desires, no matter how strong, cannot change the science and the math of this, and those desires are less important than the actual situation at hand.
The facts are the facts, and attempts to explain them away are irresponsible. Governments in this country and around the world that have acted – acted, not hoped people would magically change their nature – have had substantially better outcomes than those that have not. How long will it take to accept this simple fact?
We're in a bad spot. Elections are less than 100 days away, and that's a powerful incentive for leaders to downplay the dangers. Fall and winter, when this can be expected to worsen, aren't that far off. The federal government is doing what it can to obscure the data and delay its release, and governor after governor is doing what he can to ignore it. Can we expect responsible decision-making in the weeks ahead?
In a rational discussion, stay-at-home orders would be back on the table, but politically that's all but unmentionable. That alone is a commentary on us as a people as much as it is on our leaders.
The head of the CDC said earlier this month that the country could take one simple step – everyone wearing face masks – and “drive this epidemic to the ground” in four to six weeks. Four to six weeks. Does anyone seriously think America has the will or discipline to pull that off?