As COVID-19 Infections Surge, America's Leaders Struggle to Preserve Their Credibility

Some people are calling it a second wave. Others are calling it a continuation of the first. But no matter how you characterize it, there’s no denying what the data tells us; COVID-19 is still thriving and spreading, particularly in states that haven’t taken the virus as seriously as they should have.

More than 2,700 coronavirus patients are now being treated at Texas hospitals, which represents an increase of more than 80% since Memorial Day. In the second week of June, Alabama saw a 97% increase in confirmed cases, while South Carolina saw an 86% increase. Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer of Arizona’s Banner Health, recently warned that her state could soon face a shortage of ICU beds due to a significant uptick in hospitalizations since the state began reopening. And things aren’t looking too good in Florida, either. This past Thursday, officials in Tallahassee reported 3,207 new cases in a single day, which is the highest one-day total in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.

It sure sounds like a resurgence of the virus is on the horizon. But if you’re expecting someone to step up to the plate to guide us through this mess, please don’t hold your breath.

President Trump is clearly much more concerned with the optics of this situation and how they will impact his chances for reelection than he is with the collective health of the citizens whose interests he purports to represent. Last Monday, he complained that testing is “overrated” and that states would be registering very few new cases if testing was suspended. “In many ways, it makes us look bad,” he said. 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he spouted even more nonsense relating to the pandemic, arguing that many people who choose to wear masks do so not to safeguard their own health or protect the people around them, but rather to express their personal disapproval of him. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tried blaming young people for the rising number of cases in his state, yet it is Abbott himself who has thus far declined to give cities and counties legal authority to enforce local mandates on wearing masks in public spaces. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey had refused to allow mayors and other local government officials to issue their own mask mandates but finally changed his mind this past Wednesday after the pressure to do so became too intense to resist. 

There is a widespread perception that it is Republican politicians, and only Republican politicians, who have failed to live up to their constituents’ expectations, but that’s not exactly the case. Democrats have had their fair share of controversies, too. 

Take New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio has been out and about doing what mayors do, mingling with the public and participating in photo ops. But then he woke up feeling sick last Monday and initially decided that he would not bother getting tested himself despite his previous insistence that New Yorkers should get tested for the virus no matter whether they are exhibiting symptoms or not. The next day, however, he had an abrupt change of heart after critics called attention to his hypocrisy. Turns out that residents of the Big Apple don’t have much patience for a mayor who refuses to follow his own advice during a genuine public health crisis. 

He’s not the only Democrat who has been caught blowing off the very rules he helped create. In April, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defied her own state’s stay-at-home orders when she paid a brief visit to her hairdresser for a quick trim. Critics rightfully called her out for undermining her own administration’s message about the necessity of locking down the city, and one Chicago alderman publicly accused of her failing to fulfill her “obligation to follow and promote social distancing in order to save lives.” 

Public health officials have tried to fill the leadership void left behind by our elected leaders, but they’ve made so many missteps over the past few months that it has become increasingly difficult to defend their credibility. Perhaps their most obvious mistake was the one to which Dr. Anthony Fauci confessed during an interview with TheStreet. In the interview, he acknowledged that officials originally advised the public to refrain from buying masks in part because they wanted to make sure that health care workers had access to all the equipment they needed.

"Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned, the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply,” Fauci explained. “And we wanted to make sure that the people, namely the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in harm’s way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected. We did not want them to be without the equipment that they needed.”

In other words, the experts deliberately misled us. Some might even argue that they flat out lied to us. I won’t go that far for the simple reason that they didn’t have as much information to work with back then as they do now, and I have to allow for the possibility that they weren’t entirely convinced that homemade face coverings, like the cloth masks one might find on e-commerce websites like Etsy, would have any measurable impact on virus transmission rates. 

Still, the admission from Fauci confirms what many of us had already been thinking, which is that the advice we were initially given in regards to wearing masks was framed in a decidedly disingenuous manner. They knew that masks could be helpful but implied that wasn’t the case, and that’s something that will likely weigh on the minds of critics, skeptics, and conspiracy theorists who have already been hammering the WHO for not being honest about the lack of transparency from China and chastising The Lancet medical journal for publishing a now-retracted study about the use of malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19. 

It’s starting to feel as though we might all be stuck on a speeding train with no conductor, the risk of derailment growing greater with each new report of an unexpected outbreak. I myself had believed that Dr. Fauci was the right person to step in and take the helm, but I may have been mistaken. It may very well be that there simply isn’t anyone left who is prepared to embrace that role and possesses sufficient credibility to win the nation’s trust. But if there is someone out there who fits that particular bill, here’s hoping they find their voice before the worst comes to pass.

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