To beat COVID-19 we need strong government action and community activism
March 18, 2020
By Jill Zorn
Head to the bottom of this page for resources on different mediums to help yourself stay informed.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is threatening our health, our economy, and our way of life more and more each day. One of our most important weapons to combat this threat is strong, competent government.
That’s right – government is not a dirty word. Now more than ever, it is a necessity.
State government and local public health departments are leading the way
In this current emergency caused by the coronavirus (known as COVID-19) pandemic, it is the governors, mayors and state and local public health officials that are leading the way.
Here in Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont has been responding rapidly to the unfolding crisis. Because scientific understanding and advice about best practices are changing daily, the Connecticut response has had to change fast, too.
- Ongoing adaptation: Connecticut was one of the first states to declare a state of emergency, and since then executive orders have been issued on a daily basis based on updated information.
- Transparency: The governor and other experts have conducted daily briefings keeping the public informed. The state Department of Public Health set up a website that includes daily updates on cases by county and links to other information. The state has also worked with local governments to make sure local officials are well-informed and address questions/concerns.
- Collaboration: Still lacking adequate guidance at the federal level, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey began working to put forth a regional response, which involved closing bars, gyms, restaurants, and movie theaters. With a consistent regional response, there’s a better chance to slow down the spread of the virus and keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Federal Government Failures
We are lucky to live in a state where leaders have been taking action based on the best science and knowledge available to them. But let’s be clear, they have been hampered by the failures at the national level, including:
- The complete absence of testing capacity
- The lack of a coordinated, early national response based on expert guidance
- Mixed messages from the president and other officials about the seriousness of the challenges we face, and of action we should all be taking
- Ongoing efforts to dismantle the safety net that currently exists, including trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, cutting food stamp benefits from hundreds of thousands of Americans, and intimidating immigrants through aggressive deportation efforts and the public charge rule.
On top of the federal failures, the United States has longstanding structural problems that are antithetical to an appropriate national response:
- Valuing corporate profit and lower taxes over creating a strong social safety net that includes universal health care, paid sick leave, a strong public health infrastructure, and other key supports.
- Our long history of centralized federal power, and devolving to individual states.
The Trump administration failed to prepare in the months before this crisis. We are “the richest country in the world”, yet we do not provide our people with basic supports. The result is that the United States is perhaps the least-well equipped of any advanced country to lead an effective response to COVID-19.
Forward Motion at Last
This week, the federal government finally started to step up their efforts to provide more resources and support. In a rare show of bipartisan action, the Senate is expected to pass a bill sent to them by the House will provide some crucial help to everyday Americans. And Congress and the administration is already moving forward to craft another piece of legislation with that will provide even more financial relief.
We- in Connecticut and beyond- are in this together.
Without adequate testing capability to know who is sick and how widely the virus has spread throughout the state, we are left with one overriding imperative: stay away from each other as much as possible to slow the pandemic down. We all need to #StaytheFHome, as Twitter is reminding us. Even though this feels like inaction, this is the collective action that is required for all of us to take.
But while we maintain physical distance, we also must look out for one another and take care of each other. Many people are losing their jobs. Almost all of us are anxious about what the future may bring. While we are busy checking in with family members and friends, we must make sure to check in on the most vulnerable among us – those who live alone, are older, or already have underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk.
And we need to ramp up our activism. Because, in the midst of these uncertain and difficult times, one thing is very certain: the fight for affordable, quality, health care for all is now more important than ever.
Watch this space for more updates and sign up to receive action alerts from us to learn more about how your voice can be heard!
Connecticut Department of Public Health Coronavirus web page. Includes daily testing statistics, by county and lots of links to more information
Coronavirus is Exposing All of the Weaknesses of the US Health System, Vox, March 16, 2020, Dylan Scott
The 4 Key Reasons the U.S. is so Behind on Coronavirus Testing, The Atlantic, March 13, 2020, Olga Khazan
41% of Public More Likely to Support Universal Health Care Amid Pandemic, Morning Consult, March 13, 2020, Yusra Murad
COVID-19: Who is Infectious? March 15, 2020, Forbes, Harlan Krumholtz, MD of Yale University, about the importance of social distancing
How Trump’s Mismanagement Helped Fuel Coronavirus Crisis, Fresh Air, interview of Politico reporter Dan Diamond, March 12, 2020
Ron Klain: The Coronavirus Outbreak is Just Getting Started, Recode Decode, March 13, 2020
Corona Cataclysm: A National Emergency and a Political Wild Card, Talking Feds, March 16, 2020