The lack of leadership is infuriating

Here in Indiana, lockdown worked while it lasted, but now that it’s over daily cases are up to near their previous peak, which was in late April.

You’ll hear people say that this is because we’re doing so much more testing than before. But notice how testing is actually down by almost a third in the last couple weeks, correlating with the increase in cases. It does take a week or more to get test results back, so if testing were a part of an increase in cases you’d see that lag between these two indicators. But testing fell off after that peak and cases are still increasing.

At least deaths are way, way down since their peak in late April — by as much as two thirds. Perhaps hospitals are doing a better job of managing and treating the disease.

I got all of these graphs from the Indiana State Department of Health coronavirus dashboard here.

A few states are doing better than Indiana, with fewer new cases over time. Several states are doing far worse than Indiana, with new cases spiking.

I’m deeply disheartened by it all. It didn’t have to be this way. We are here because of failed leadership at the state and national level. States have reopened too aggressively, and there has been no strong and consistent message from our leaders about what we should be doing to protect ourselves and our neighbors.

We have two ways of checking this virus’s spread: first, wearking masks when we are in public; and second, avoiding gatherings with people we don’t live with where we are in close proximity for more than several minutes, especially when inside. If state and national leaders would only get on the same page about this, and hit this message hard whenever they communicate with us, I believe it would have dramatic positive effect. I believe Americans would comply in large numbers. The group that believes these restrictions are fascism or a terrible infringement on our personal liberties would likely shut up, and maybe even go along.

At no time in my life have I experienced such a failure of American leadership. We are on our own here, and it’s infuriating. I fear that this nation will have to go through mass infection to achieve herd immunity — with all of the deaths and, probably, lingering serious health issues that implies.

I fear a couple things. First, that our lack of national unity in this response makes us highly vulnerable to countries that wish us harm. Second, that when we come through this time of COVID, whenever that is, that the balance of world power will have shifted, and our status in the world will be irretrievably reduced.


39 responses to “The lack of leadership is infuriating”

  1. DougD Avatar

    My wife thinks maybe the deaths have dropped because there was an initial surge in nursing homes with vulnerable people. Now vulnerable populations are more effectively locked away, but lately the spread is more among young people so lower death rate. As it spreads to older folks we may see the death rate rise. That’s just her educated guess though.
    American exceptionalism is a real thing, but sadly not the way you’d want it in this case.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That could have played a role, to be sure. I’ve been skeptical of American exceptionalism my whole adult life but now we just suck.

  2. Ben Cotton Avatar

    I have a lot of colleagues in Europe and, while things are far from perfect there, I look at the quick and decisive action they took and how well they’re beginning to recover, it makes me even more mad at how much we squandered our opportunity. Some of it is the immediate reaction (or lack thereof) and some of it is the long-term structural decisions that makes a real shutdown harmful to the average worker.

    With 5.4 million losing health insurance and 32% of households making zero or partial housing payments, even if the virus disappeared tomorrow, we’re still going ot have an crisis on our hands.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, we’ve got a societal/economic crisis of epic proportions here — the full effects just haven’t revealed themselves yet.

  3. -N- Avatar

    It’s sad, indeed. No leadership, just self-interest and narcissism along with ineptitude, flunkies, inexperience, and brown-nosing. I’ll stop there.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Everything you’d expect from an eastern regime in the 1970s.

      1. -N- Avatar

        Yep. At least they had public health to a degree. Here? Keep laughing.

  4. Steve Briggs Avatar
    Steve Briggs

    Jim, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    And by the way, more testing also shows who DOESN’T have the virus either. We’re not looking only looking for the number of positives. We’re looking for whom to quarantine, and who to safely send to work or school. Folks seem to be working awfully hard to miss these points.
    I have a wife with a seriously compromised immune system, and a grand daughter who is 3 months old. Yet, I am told every day that lots more people die of other diseases so what’s the big fuss?
    I fully recognize that this pandemic is no politician’s fault, and that we are bitterly divided as a country. But that doesn’t mean we ignore science, as imperfect as it is, or that we throw expertise out the window because we don’t like hearing an opposing opinion.
    40 million children depend on school breakfast and lunch programs, but schools are highly infectious places. So surely we can conduct breakfast and lunch programs in safer settings without creating an explosion of infections that will most assuredly be fatal to the aged and infirm.
    I realize that folks need to work but I ask you, “How is it that any number of other countries have managed this successfully and we have been to proud or too blind to learn from their valuable experiences.”
    And you’re right, our enemies are taking full advantage of our vulnerabilities. We abandoned the Kurds in Syria and forced them to have to negotiate with the Russians. China has now engulfed Hong Kong and is taking aggressive action in the South China seas. Democratic Capitalism in America is performing poorly against Totalitarian Capitalism these days.
    It’s going to be a long road back

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We SHOULD be looking for who is safe to be out in the world but I don’t see any evidence that we are.

      All of this is showing that school’s primary purpose is child care. I hate to be so cynical but I think it’s hard to ignore this reality.

      I don’t know that we go back. I think we will have to find a new path forward.

  5. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Yep. I feel for you there. It seems to me that hearts have been hardened and eyes blinded to wisdom. It has happened before, and will no doubt happen again. The virus can be stopped, it is the movement of people that carries the virus, but it requires the good will and sacrifice of everybody for about two months. In the absence of that Psalm 91 is a great comfort.
    Blessings and prayers from New Zealand.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We are such a vast country. And we take individualism to an extreme. I have little hope for our ability to sacrifice en masse — especially without strong leadership.

  6. Dani Avatar

    With school starting back up soon and the Indy 500 running with fans, it will be interesting to see where Indiana’s numbers are in about a month.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know. Brace for impact.

  7. Lou Perry Avatar
    Lou Perry

    Well said

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you.

  8. analogphotobug Avatar

    We’ve had good leadership here in Colorado. But as they start to open up activities, our COVID has gone up slightly. We are now debating what to actually do about opening schools.

    I am glad the the Universities were able to force the Administration to back down on deporting foreign students. Their much higher tuition pays a lot of the bills at these Universities.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The whole thing about the international students was infuriating. A naked play to further restrict immigration.

  9. nigelkell Avatar

    Sadly, there probably won’t be any herd immunity. Recent research in the UK suggests that the immunity to Covid-19 rapidly declines after recovery, much the same as other coronaviruses (like colds). So you can catch it again and again (like colds).
    This would call into question whether there will ever be an effective vaccine……
    Sadly, entrusting something this important to mayfly like creatures like politicians is never a good idea.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve heard that too, but I’ve also heard the opposite. Probably bears some digging into the news to see what the latest thinking is.

  10. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    First of all, let me say that 10 minutes of Google browsing would have given people all the information the needed to never vote for Donald Trump. Why they did, and why the blue collar neo-con working class voted for him in droves (or why they vote republican at all) is going to be one for the history books, especially since in the last 20 years, the working class has fared far worse under republicans than they would have under the democrats. He was totally unqualified to be president, the most unqualified in my lifetime!

    Second, we are spiking again in Wisconsin as well, entirely based on the decisiveness of the republican party, who has thwarted any blanket solution by the democratic governor to control this pandemic. They went so far as to use the right-wing state legislature, to send the last gubernatorial mandate to the right-wing state supreme court, to tell the governor that he did not have the power to set pandemic policy!

    They also used this power to strike down the opportunity to move the last election to a safer time, resulting in 40 additional virus cases of both voters and poll workers! It’s interesting to read blogs by you, Jim, lauding the ability to vote by mail, in a highly republican state, while in Wisconsin, the republicans are trying to stop wide-spread mail voting, under the concept that it will promote fraud (voter fraud being a long term republican red-herring that has never been proven), but mostly because if more people can vote, and the poor who can’t get time off from work can now vote, the republicans will fare poorly.

    Milwaukee has just passed their own “mask” ordinance, on par with what other states have done, but the local government had to do it. We still have reports from working class republican, out-state areas where people are flaunting their non-use of masks, and some are still talking like the pandemic is a democratic hoax! It’s interesting that when the republican president, and the local republican legislature was promoting the idea that the pandemic was in remission, they interviewed Milwaukee business owners who laughed and said “I don’t think so.” while vowing not to be back in full business until there was more information of a vaccine.

    Poor Wisconsin, every once and a while, there’s another “Joe McCarthy” that raises his ugly head for the out-state areas; this time legislators Vos and Fitzgerald, who are the instigators of this madness locally.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The one thing that the pandemic has shown is that there is a wide swath of idiot Americans.

  11. johannarothman Avatar

    Spot on. I’m so disappointed in our elected officials. With delays in long feedback loops (as we have here), people don’t see the effect of their actions until the system enters a runaway condition. I fear that is where we are now.

    I think the thing that infuriates me the most is the assumption we have to choose between the economy and saving lives. That’s a false choice. We can have both and we need to be careful how we get there. Right now, we’re choosing for neither: neiter a good economy nor saving lives. (And, we’re putting all the health care workers in danger.)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If we’re not already in a runaway condition, we will be in one shortly.

      Yes, the way the government is handling this is a complete fustercluck.

  12. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Dead on! We are here because of a lack of leadership at the top which has trickled down to state and local government. The whole country is just a hodge podge of different rules and regulations that change daily. I cannot believe we are here. Truly.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I can’t believe it either. Our country is more fragile than I ever thought.

  13. Martin Cutrone Avatar
    Martin Cutrone

    Jim, I can’t agree with you more. Appalling lack of leadership, and such a dismaying sense of suspicion of a significant group of people who believe this is a hoax. We are a big, spread out country and so many of us don’t know anyone or even another family has lost a relative. If we don’t live in one of the major cities, we are relatively spared. Yet it wasn’t that long ago when we rose up and stopped a war because we lost 59,000 young men over 15 years. Now we lose 135,000, and many people scream it’s all a hoax, and don’t step on my liberties. So sad we as a country can’t even come close to uniting against this catastrophe.

    Marty Cutrone

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s always been that fringe group that believes everything the government says is a hoax, but thanks to social media and lack of leadership, their influence is growing.

  14. brandib1977 Avatar

    Our governor gave us a pep talk tonight and basically asked nicely that we all wear our masks and reconsider those backyard barbecues. Sigh. He quoted Lincoln and Reagan and tried to rally us all behind our buckeye spirit. Meanwhile, people in other countries did their best to flatten the curve and their lives resemble normal. We are going to be stuck in this leaderless limbo for a while, I fear.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, at least your governor did that much.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        True. It’s just frustrating because I felt like he was providing real leadership a few months ago. Now he’s put a lot of the responsibility on cities and counties to govern themselves and it’s just not working.

        I was pleased to see that Walmart has announced a mask mandate. I don’t like the company but corporate America looks to them for leadership and I’m hopeful that more stores will follow their lead. Kroger and Kohl’s also made the same announcement yesterday.

        I was supposed to go back into the office Monday but our president has decided to keep the work from home group out for a couple more weeks. I feel very fortunate for that.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          How sad that corporate America has to fill the leadership gap.

          Where I work we were just told that we’ll stay working from home through at least the end of the year.

          1. brandib1977 Avatar

            Oh wow. It’s good that you’re being given the opportunity to stay home and safe!

            And yes, it is sad that we rely on a big box store to show us how to be responsible and safe. Our country’s leaders certainly aren’t doing it.

  15. J P Avatar

    If you will permit a dissenting voice, I wonder if the broad outcry for leadership carries an implicit level of hubris that this is something that science or government can do anything about, other than at the margins.

    There has been so much conflicting information from organizations we assume know what they’re doing like the CDC and WHO. If the scientists don’t have a handle on this, how can we possibly expect government to?

    We modern humans have the belief that we can manage everything, whether the economy, the climate or a virus. My suggestion is that in these macro events we often don’t know what we’re doing (though we are quite certain that we do) and are at least as likely to cause harm through unintended consequences as we are to improve things. We need get through our heads that not everything is subject to our control, and expecting people who have trouble running a postal system or a roll of active voters to “keep us safe” is – let’s go with wildly optimistic.

    I would argue that spreading the best information available and allowing individuals to make sensible decisions is going to be no worse in the long run than putting governments in charge, particularly in the current environment political and social warfare.

    A perfect example of government incompetence: my daughter has pointed out that our local requirement to wear masks exempts the deaf/hard of hearing who need to read lips. The problem is that those people are not affected by their own masks – they need to read the lips of all the rest of us (who are required to wear masks). When we dive into the details of things beyond some core functions, government screws up (at least) as much as it gets right.

    As for our house, we go out as little as possible and wear masks when we do – and did before our city required it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The kind of leadership I’m looking for is much more about reasonable unity among our leaders on, based on the best we know now, what we should all be doing. They should be giving us consistent messages about it, and appeal to how we Americans band together in times of trouble to care for our fellow man. This is the kind of leadership I’m looking for. It’s totally not happening.

      1. J P Avatar

        “It’s totally not happening”

        No argument there!

    2. Aaron Avatar

      We need leadership that is unified and sets a good example. And the idea that government screws up everything they touch is just silly. Anyone who has worked at a large corporation can tell you that incompetence is not a government problem — it’s a human problem.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I’ve noticed too that the larger the org, the more rulebound and bureaucratic it becomes.

  16. Aaron Avatar

    Well said, Jim — I agree with pretty much everything you have written. What a shame we have to start all over again because a few people can’t put concern for their fellow humans over so-called “personal freedom”. What good is a society if we don’t care for each other?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes. It’s called citizenship. We’ve forgotten about it.

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