Sunday, August 29, 2021

Politics and the Pandemic - Progress Denied

Over the course of this pandemic, we have learned a lot about the country, our leaders and ourselves – and not all of it has been good.  One thing we have learned is that anything can be politicized.  Will anyone be shocked, for example, if a protest movement develops demanding that that Mother’s Day either be abolished or renamed?  

Overall, Governor Mike DeWine has provided sober guidance and directives here in Ohio.  I think that his performance during the pandemic will be an important reason why he will be reelected in 2022.  Interestingly, although he is a bonafide conservative, he will face primary threats from the right in a state that Trump handily won in the past 2 presidential elections.  As we all have learned in November 2016, anything can happen.

But, DeWine, like every other political leader considered the political impact of public health decisions.

Governor DeWine Understands the Pandemic and Politics.

In April 2020, he issued a mask mandate for customers and employees in newly opened retail establishments and businesses.  The slogan was ‘no mask, no work, no service, no exception.’  The governor issued this recommendation after consulting with public health experts.  Although I have only rudimentary public health knowledge, this measure seemed very rationale to me. 

What a difference a day makes.  Within 24 hours, the governor did a political back flip and reversed the requirement that customers must be masked.  This abrupt U-turn resulted after howls of protest from mask opponents.  The public health facts certainly didn’t change, but the politics did. 

We have seen repeatedly our political leaders caving to serve political concerns. I am not suggesting that public health experts are the only ones wearing white hats.  Because their mission is to protect the entire population, I think some of them have been overzealous to protect the public at the expense of our economic health, the education of our kids and mental health consequences of mitigation strategies.  It’s easier to recommend that someone else lose his job to serve the greater good.  It’s easier to support extending the eviction moratorium if you are not a landlord.   It’s easier for teachers to support cancelling classroom learning for ‘safety’s sake, than it is for parents who must quit their jobs so that they can become homeschool teachers. 

I don’t claim to know where to establish the balance between public health protection and society’s other needs.  Of course, this is not a mathematical query that has a single correct solution.  Experts will disagree as they face a moving target with insufficient data.  But, had politics been stripped from the process, then we would be a lot farther along than we are now. 



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