Social Distancing: What it is, why it works & what you should do

We provide links to 4 excellent articles, a hilarious clip from Trevor Noah shredding Trump’s pronouncements, and then conclude with a video on the virus from Bernie, just so you can be reminded what leadership looks like.

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Virus Puts Character on Full Display

I don’t know about you, but it is hard not to think about the coronavirus every day. For the foreseeable future, our lives are changed in ways we could never have anticipated and people are anxious. In times like these, leaders often rise the occasion: FDR, LBJ, even Rudy Giuliani have faced critical historic moments and risen to the occasion.

Here in NM, I could hardly be more proud of how our Governor has been proactive in doing what few states have been quick to do — implement proactive social distancing policies by banning meetings of 100 or more, cancelling all out of state travel for state business, and shutting down our schools. Perhaps more important than these actions, Governor Lujan Grisham has calmly and authentically reassured us and she has been truthful, telling us exactly the scope of the virus and how we all need to behave to reduce the spread of the virus.

Now let’s look at Trump. Until yesterday, he seemed completely obtuse to the scale of the problem, the depth of American’s anxiety, or how best to address either the problem or the anxiety. Instead Trump has:

  • Blocked states from accessing Medicaid which would free millions of dollars and provide states flexibility in determining how best to use these resources. This is a policy used by Dems and GOP in many prior emergencies, so it is incomprehensible that he would withhold this vital resource at such a critical moment. See LA Times article below.
  • Called the virus a “foreign” virus and blamed Italy, China, and Korea for our problems while taking credit for utterly ineffective international travel bans.
  • At his press conference yesterday and on other occasions, he repeatedly stated his refusal to be tested for the virus, despite his having been exposed to the virus at least twice. Two GOP Senators self-isolated themselves for being at the same meetings and having the same exposure, yet Trump continued to insist, “I have no symptoms, so there is no need for a test.” Incomprehensibly, this assertion was in direct contradiction to the directions offered to the rest of America only minutes before by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Refused to take any responsibility for the failure of the US health system to make virus tests broadly available despite Fauci being able to quite easily admit, “we failed.”
  • Most revealing of all was Trump’s Wednesday night Oval Office wooden delivery of a talk meant to reassure. During the talk he made incomprehensible errors, claiming that he had met with insurance execs to reach an agreement to waive co-pays and deductibles for testing and treatment (half right, the testing will be free, not so the treatment….guess which is more costly) and saying he was banning travel from 26 European states AND banning import of their goods, a claim he had to back track on immediately after the speech. This was a big moment in US history. How do you make such huge errors in a speech that had been scripted for you? When he goes ad lib, anything can happen, but here all he had to do was read.

Trump has been treating the virus as if it were a public relations problem, not a health emergency. His statement that he preferred keeping thousands of passengers holed up on a cruise ship because he doesn’t want “our numbers to go up,” tells you all you need to know about his priorities. But what is even more telling is Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the scale of the crisis, continually portraying a pandemic as if it is something we can easily manage and never publicly stating the need for people to begin practicing “social distancing” because to do so would convey a scale of crisis he did not want on his watch. You can’t declare a state of emergency if there is no emergency; and a leader wouldn’t recommend banning large gatherings and shuttering schools if the crisis weren’t teetering on the edge of being out of control.

But what is most revealing of Trump’s character is his complete lack of empathy, compassion, or concern for normal Americans. He can divvy up $1.5 trillion to stabilize the stock market, but he has barely uttered a word about the working people whose jobs have disappeared at least for now, due to closing venues, businesses, and reduced travel, or to those who once infected face weeks off from work and costly treatment for which they may have no insurance coverage. Forty percent of American households (51.2 million households) live on less than $50,000 a year. These households are vulnerable to any sudden income loss or medical bill. Yet, where is the discussion of relief for those families? Trump is too busy conferring with the cruise line and airline industry to help them recover from the virus. Instead of dumping $1.5 trillion on Wall St, for 1/3 the price tag, Trump could have given every one of those 51.2 million economically fragile Americans $10,000 each. And they would spend it in local economies.

While constantly crowing about how the virus will not seriously impact “healthy” Americans, he has shown next to zero concern for those millions of Americans who are highly vulnerable to the virus and face life threatening consequences should they contract it. He continually minimizes the scale of the problem. Bottom line, assurances that “all will be fine” fail to reassure when the speaker has been shown to be so unfamiliar with the truth and so totally lacking in understanding of the situation.

And since you can’t get the truth from the White House, we offer up a few articles that point out in excruciating details the depth of the situation, the scope of Trump’s mishandling of that situation, and what you may be able to do to help limit the spread of the virus. Read on.

Paul Krugman Excoriates Trump For Just About Everything Related to Coronavirus

Trump first poured $1.5 trillion into Wall St purportedly to prop up an economy reeling from fears of where this virus could go, when a more effective means of reassuring investors would be to demonstrate that he was listening to the doctors, researchers, and scientists who have spent their lives preparing for this moment. If he did that, he would have been making testing kits free and widely available; he would have ensured paid medical leave for all; he would have offered a Federal match to Medicaid dollars used by states to combat the virus, instead of blocking their use of these funds; and he would have promoted social distancing practices. Instead he continues to operate on whim and impulse and seek ways to protect the profits of his corporate billionaires. Even his “payroll tax holiday,” is nothing more than a very expensive political ploy. From Paul Krugman:

His big idea for the economy is a complete payroll tax holiday. According to Bloomberg News, he told Republican senators that he wanted the holiday to extend “through the November election so that taxes don’t go back up before voters decide whether to return him to office.”

New York Times: by Paul Krugman: “It’s a MAGA microbe meltdown”

So the timing of this stimulus isn’t tied to the trajectory of the pandemic, but to his re-election time line. This is obscene. Krugman points to a much more effective means of supporting Americans in economic crisis: “Send checks,” something I estimated to cost 1/3 of the Wall St. bailout. To read more from Krugman, click here.

Why Social Distancing Is So Important

This Vox report describes how in China, Italy, and South Korea, all employ social distancing policies. Unfortunately, for Italy they were too slow in implementing the practices, resulting in a swift escalation of the virus’ spread and the resultant overwhelming of its health system charged with caring for those afflicted and needing hospitalization. Fortunately, in NM our Governor is acting swiftly, encouraging and even mandating no gatherings over 100, closing schools, and encouraging all of us to practice social distancing. The Vox report shows charts depicting how, with effective social distancing, communities can “flatten the curve,” effectively slowing and reducing the spread of the virus so that health systems can manage the numbers of those afflicted much more easily. If you don’t understand why social distancing is so important and why this is different from just a flu or cold epidemic, Click here to read the Vox report.

CDC Recommendations on How To Practice Social Distancing

While Trump has never really offered any advice as to how we, as individuals, should act, we offer up this guide from the CDC. Social distancing is mentioned in every guide for doing your part in limiting the spread of the Coronavirus and as pointed out in the Vox article above, it is the best strategy for slowing the spread of the virus. But what is Social Distancing and how does it apply to the practical daily decisions and actions we are all accustomed to doing: going to the market, going to a movie, going for a walk, having a couple of friends over for dinner, attending a wedding or other gathering? The Atlantic assembled three CDC experts and posed one common situation after another with each expert then weighing in. A very useful piece. Click here to read the full Atlantic piece.

Trump Blocks States from Using Medicaid To Address Virus

Democrat and Republican leaders have routinely allowed states to utilize Medicaid flexibly by eliminating federal rules to allow states vastly expanded resources. This has been done in addressing emergencies like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the H1N1 flu outbreak. Months into the epidemic, Trump has not done so.

“Medicaid could be the nation’s biggest public health responder, but it’s such an object of ire in this administration,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a Medicaid expert at George Washington University. “Their ideology is clouding their response to a crisis.”

L.A.Times: Trump administration blocks states from using Medicaid to respond to coronavirus crisis

The L.A. Times does an excellent job laying out how this inaction has crippled the response to the virus in hard hit states like California, Washington, and New York. Click here to read this article.

It Would be Very Funny, If It Weren’t So Consequential

Trevor Noah does a tremendous job piecing together cringe-worthy comment after comment, including two astonishing outtakes of Trump before and after his speech, where we see the real DT, unaware the camera and mics were on. In times like this, we need to laugh.

This Is What Leadership Looks Like

Barring a miracle, he will continue to be the leader of a movement, but not of a nation. Nevertheless, he illustrates time and again what happens when character meets a challenge. This is what leadership looks like.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne



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3 replies

  1. This is the most informative article I’ve read so far about the Coronavirus epidemic. It explains in depth the importance of quarantining the virus through business closures and social distancing. In a time where our leaders are failing in their duty to take charge of this pandemic, it is up to all of us to do what we can to prevent the spread of the virus. Please read this and share it.
    https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

  2. In all fairness, Uncle Joe gave an address that, while not “We have nothing to fear…” or “Ask not what America…”, demonstrated what compassionate leadership looks like. Both candidates shone brightly in comparison to Trump’s televised disaster. To further illustrate this administration’s incompitance, they did not have a coronavirus webpage setup to clarify the policy statements that Trump made. Meanwhile, Biden and Sanders both have used the interwebs to post their public health messages.

  3. Thanks, Paul. The article you reference is long, but detailed, and by far the most understandable piece I’ve come across. I’ve been sharing it widely. Flatten the curve!

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