Veteran commenter Michael Erjecito’s comment on another post about the pandemic included the line, “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception.” Chris Marschner used that statement as his departure point in this Comment of the Day on a separate EA post, Item #4 under the title above, which involved Governor Ralph Northam’s “order” restricting the freedoms of Virginians. Since I had started a post on the topic of draconian government restrictions that are Constitutionally questionable, I was grateful to see Chris had attacked it with his usual verve.
Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More”:
I am beginning to believe this event is a government dress rehearsal for a much more draconian event later on. One must test the limits of what the public is willing to endure from governmental decrees lest we see the people charging the statehouses with torches and pitchforks.
Ok, enough of my melodrama. But the quote above is indicative of the risk of a different type of loss well after this virus disappears.
I keep hearing that Trump ignores science or that he relies on hunches and not data to make quality decisions. Well at 8 pm yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued the stay at home order or face fines of $5,000 and/or a year in jail. In that decree, there is absolutely no mention as to the scientific data that he used to trigger the order and thus there is no data to indicate when he would lift the order.
There is also no specific data-driven rationale for a Stay At Home order when all types of recreational activities are allowed as long as they are in groups of 10 or fewer. How exactly does the data suggest that grocery stores filled with hundreds of people crowding the aisles will cause less of a problem than a non-essential service like a mom and pop jewelry store or a scuba shop that usually have fewer than 10 people in it any given time? Why is it that the data supports Home Depot and Walmart being allowed to sell non-essential goods because they are allowed to stay open because they offer other essential goods such as repair items, food, and medicine but a comic book bike shop or video-store must shutter its business?
My point is that for all the claims that decisions are data driven I would wager most decisions are driven by political calculus not necessarily on epidemiological considerations.
Furthermore, if we are to use data to drive decisions, that data must be understood by all in order to ensure that the people subject to the restrictions imposed will know if the government is abusing its governing powers. The terms of these orders should spell out specifically the triggers that cause regulatory restrictions and when those restrictions MUST be rescinded; these restrictions cannot be open ended and without definition.
The only data that we hear is the 2.2 million deaths that could have occurred had nothing been done, and Dr. Fauci’s equivocating statement that maybe as many as 200,000 might die – but don’t hold him to that—and, the ongoing death watch clocks prominently displayed on all the network news shows and web search engines. We never hear why this decision is made or why we are not doing something that some believe might be helpful. Tell me: are the anti-malarial drugs something to be considered as a treatment or a prophylaxes; neither or both? I suppose drugs are worthwhile and can be used off label with some effectiveness so long as they are not suggested by Donald Trump.
We cannot use infection growth rates as growth rates as a trigger because they may be much higher initially with low absolute numbers. Going from 10 cases to 30 cases an increase of 20 cases is a 300% increase but going from 100 cases to 120 cases is only a 20% increase. Then the issue is where are the cases occurring? Should a county with few infections be subject to the same restrictions as a highly populated hot spot?
I do wish the media would stop confusing the public by switching between growth rates, absolute numbers and per capita values. When the press states that on a per capita basis the US lags other nations in testing, that suggests we are not doing enough even if we have tested three times the amount of others. Growth rates don’t mean beans if you don’t have a basis from which to measure. Growth rates and absolute values must be used in tandem to make them meaningful.
Many in the media and some within our commentariat believe there has been an abysmal failure at the federal level to adequately plan for such a pandemic. NO, the Governors and legislatures of the respective states have been an abysmal failure at preparing for such an emergency. In my state, Maryland, we have the Office of Emergency Preparedness. (https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/About.aspx)
How prepared is Maryland Governor Hogan?
On the Resources page there is not one mention of the Covid-19 virus under infectious threats. We are still mentioning Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, and Zika but all is quiet on the Chinese Flu front.
Is the reference to MERS a bigoted and racist term? I did not consider the others to have racist connotations because how many Americans know Ebola is named after a river in the sub-Saharan Africa and the others after other places in Africa. Our governor seems to be at odds with his own departments. We are prepared for any eventuality according to our state team. They say so!
IS THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PREPARED? Yes! The Department of Health Office of Preparedness and Response prepares in a variety of ways:
• Maryland Influenza Plan and Pandemic Influenza Plan
• Pandemic influenza exercises for emergency personnel
• Partnering with local, state, federal, and private agencies to prepare for, prevent, and lessen the impact of a flu pandemic
• Maintaining a stockpile of antiviral medications and medical supplies ( WHERE ARE THEY?????)
From their web pages we find that their preparedness program is merely a funnel for federal funds.
The mission of the Hospital Preparedness Program is to support and enhance the ability of hospitals and health care systems to provide effective care and save lives during emergencies. The Office of Preparedness and Response receives annual federal funding to advance these goals and objectives. The Maryland Department of Health awards these funds in the form of grants to our health care system partners across the state (including hospitals, free-standing emergency departments, emergency medical services, community health centers, and home care and hospice agencies). Health care system partners utilize the Hospital Preparedness Program funds to enhance their ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies that pose a threat to the health and safety of the community.
We should be asking Ms. Sherry Adams, as Director of Maryland’s Office of Emergency Preparedness why she did not seek to secure adequate resources for your Hospital Preparedness Program. Mr. Romanosky, as the Medical Director what responsibility do you bear in in adequate planning for this type of emergency? Why hasn’t Jim Acosta or Ms. Alcindor asked why Maryland’s Medical Countermeasures Program failed to have enough PPE’s on hand for such an emergency instead of asking the President idiotic gotcha questions?
One thing we are not overstocked with in this office is personnel. (https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Contacts.aspx#command)
My own Governor, Larry Hogan (R) joined with Gretchen Whitmire (D) Michigan to pen an op-ed this past weekend for the Washington Post pointing the finger at the Federal government because the states are now competing against one another for supplies and that the Federal government needs to do more to facilitate cooperation. The Feds cannot facilitate cooperation if the states themselves are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government. It is 50 competing state interests trying to get under the umbrella. It is not the umbrella’s fault that you are pushing each other around.
I gather that their point is to follow Cuomo’s lead in saying that the Feds should step in and exploit its monopsony power to eliminate the potentiality for competitive price increases because of the current increase in demand. Are they really trying to get us to believe the federal government will get a better deal because they are the only buyer competing? Or, are they counting on the fact that, unlike states, it has virtually no limits on spending, and because price is no object during this pandemic they can blame any shortfall on Trump’s lack of (fill in the blank)? Holding the line on prices by being a single buyer is highly unlikely with a product that is both price inelastic and voter inelastic. These governors know that. They are not idiots, but they do consider us a bunch of dolts.
It is obvious to a thinking person that Governors Hogan and Whitmire are deflecting their own lack of planning oversight at the state level. Hogan obviously took Ms. Adams’ word that all was well. Maryland has chosen to prioritize spending countless resources through the AG’s office to sue the Trump administration numerous times. In fairness, in our state the governor is powerless against a virulently anti-Trump AG named Brian Frosh. Apparently, ensuring that states can choose what federal laws it will honor takes a higher priority than ensuring that all health facilities have ready access to all the supplies it needs in a statewide emergency. In my opinion, the feds should only backstop states in their quest to obtain resources; not supplant them – especially those states that have spent millions of state taxpayer dollars suing the current administration.
Governor Hogan, take responsibility for the fact that our state, like so many others, have Governors and legislatures that chose to spend its resources on something other than pandemic response. Acknowledge that you shifted the total responsibility for resourcing the response to the federal government. And, for god’s sake stop going on TV wearing that inane State Police ball cap and vest. You are not touring a disaster zone or working to hand out supplies. It looks put on and foolish.
I don’t know which is worse, VA Governor Northam’s 70 day stay at home demand or an open ended one like Governor Hogan’s. I am willing to comply with lawful orders but when do lawful orders such as this end and the Constitutional protections we are suppose to enjoy are restored? Without this question being answered to our general satisfaction we cannot dismiss the possibility that we are being prepared for a significant restructuring of our Constitutional system of government by our government.
Can you tell I’m pissed?