As the World reacts to Covid-19 and grapples with how to best protect people, we’re seeing a lot of examples of things that should be done. Here at home we’ve seen some health officials make some very good suggestions about ways to be prepared and be ready for this situation; wash your hands for twenty seconds with warm water, don’t shake hands, don’t touch your face, don’t take cruises and more.
Over the past couple of weeks the media has been talking about this a lot and I myself have had a fair bit to say about it too. And for me, a lot of this has come down to more about what others are or aren’t doing. Our officials here at home have done a good job of keeping people informed, getting people tested and working across jurisdictions to help deal with this health crisis, so I can say that they are holding up their end of the bargain. But for me the bigger worry is our neighbour to the South of us, how they are reacting and what the heck is going on (or not going on) there. You can point to more than a few examples but here are a couple from just the last couple days that are making many people worry:
Now I put those few Tweets there for a specific reason, to show how the words and actions from the very top of the political structure can create and cause very dangerous decisions and policies to be taken further down the line. Despite the fact that we’ve seen the United States have press conferences with health experts trying to deal with Covid-19, you’ve had President Trump out there undermining and undoing any confidence those medical professionals are trying to instill in the public.
It’s clear that Trump doesn’t want to believe there is a problem here, that he’s more concerned about how this makes him look bad than actually helping to keep people healthy. That comment from last week about keeping people on the cruise ship to keep numbers artificially low is just deplorable and disgusting, as he was basically suggesting ensuring that thousands of people would be far more likely to get sick and maybe die, just so he could goose the figures lower to try to make him look better (or not as bad). That folks, is the polar opposite of alright. That’s dangerous behavior that is beyond the pale.
Putting Trump’s behaviour aside, one hopes that in situations like these the institutions of government will hold up and will not succumb to that kind of blinkered thoughtless though. Yet as that story from the Miami Herald shows, that’s just not the case here. It turns out that US Immigration court staff have been ordered by the Trump administration to take down all Covid-19 posters from courtrooms and waiting areas. Think about that for a moment; they have been ordered to take down information about how people can keep themselves safe from this disease and for what? That’s the question because there is no good reason for not telling people about washing their hands and keeping safe. Seriously, what is the downside to giving people that information except that it might make a government look worse? Is this American administration so emotionally fragile that it can’t handle posters in court houses telling people how to stay healthy? Come on man.
But that second story is just as worrisome to me as the first, because it’s stupid things like stopping to tell people how to stay safe that exposes more people to the risk of this disease and leads to more cases. And folks, that’s why I worry about us here at home. While our leaders, from across the political spectrum, are putting most partisanship aside and are actually dealing with what we need to tackle this health crisis, our larger neighbours who we are so integrated with are not. While some states and municipalities there are doing their part, the leader of their national government is calling Covid-19 a “Democratic and media hoax” all designed to thwart Trump politically. I would say that Trump has taken his eyes off the ball, but you could argue that he’s never had them on it to begin with.
So while we are doing everything we can here at home, I think we may soon arrive at a point where we will realize that we are being put at greater risk because of the thin-skinned 45th President of the United States and those who contort themselves into political pretzels to appease him. This is serious stuff and this should rise above partisanship, but as we can see for some with the most power to the south of us, that isn’t happening. So while we prepare and do our best to be ready, I can’t help but have an eerie feeling that in the end the biggest threat that we’ll face when it comes to fighting Covid-19 won’t come from China, Iran or Italy, but might instead come our strongest historical ally and the person who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.