Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Leadership, Lack of

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Some people need to be told how to act safely. This is in Westfield, N.Y., with a fog-bound Lake Erie in the background. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It’s 84 days until the general election, and it is crucial we’re prepared to vote wisely.

Sometimes, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of elected leaders … such as times when things are going relatively smoothly. The COVID-19 pandemic is, conversely, an example of how having capable leaders can literally make the difference between life and death, even for hundreds of thousands of people.

Am I blaming Donald Trump for the virus? No way. Am I saying his ineptitude contributed to making it incredibly worse? By all means.

That has been glaringly obvious since the early days, as Trump repeatedly insisted (in the face of scientific predictions to the contrary) the coronavirus would mysteriously go away. Meanwhile, we sat on our heels as the disease infiltrated the country and took hold, much as the scientists projected.

But my analysis is not made in a vacuum. Other nation’s leaders reacted differently and achieved far more desirable results.

Action

Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Israel, and others responded quickly and decisively, often incorporating innovative patches to help keep the economy moving and people safe. Every one of these countries had fewer cases per capita and fewer deaths per capita, and they all tested a larger percentage of the population.

But New Zealand caught my eye Sunday in a story saying the Kiwis had gone 100 days without community transmission of a COVID-19 case. A Friday article in The New England Journal of Medicine outlined how they did it.

Basically, they believed the medical experts and put a science-based plan into action, including a tough, nationwide lockdown. You can read the details from the journal if you’re interested.

The result was they were able to declare the pandemic over in New Zealand after 103 days. Remember flattening the curve? This is an example. Of course, they’re continuing to monitor and anyone entering the country has to go through tests and quarantine.

Exactly how effective was it?

New Zealand has had 22 deaths. Sure, it’s a much smaller country, so that’s why we use percentages. With a population (2018) of 4.886 million, that means one of every 222,091 people died of COVID. The United States, which still has not formulated a plan to manage the coronavirus, has had at least 162,959 deaths. With a population (2019) of 328.2 million, that means one of every 2,014 Americans died of COVID and, obviously, more are still dying, hundreds more each day.

So, how effective was New Zealand’s response? One could argue it has been more than 100 times as effective as the U.S. “plan” of waiting for the disease to just go away.

The two countries are certainly different, but this gap is no statistical anomaly. Repeatedly and predictably, informed action trumps inaction when it comes to managing crises.

One last look at numbers.

If you take New Zealand’s death rate of 0.00045 percent and apply it to the U.S. population, you come up with 1,477 deaths. Total. Tragic, yes, but a far cry short of 162,000 and counting.

This means?

Donald Trump was elected, in part, because some voters wanted a businessman, or someone who’s not a politician, or someone who would shake things up.

We must not make the mistake again of electing a supposed leader whose only credential is a bombastic personality. Trump does not know how to handle a problem if he can’t bully it or pay it off.

And need I point out that most other Republicans in office have done little except support the president in his inaction?

But Biden…

Would Joe Biden be any better? After all, Trump’s been trying to portray him as weak and out of touch. Oops, you forgot the first rule of evaluating Trump comments: He lies all of the time.

Back to Joe.

I again refer you to the Joe’s Vision page, where he outlines plans for many issues facing the country. Topics there include “The Biden Plan for Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19),” “The Biden 4-Point Plan for Our Essential Workers,” “Joe Biden’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools Safely,” “Joe’s Leadership in Times of Crisis: COVID-19,” and, looking down the road, “The Biden Plan for Health Care.”

Actual plans. You know, written instructions, like those left for Trump by the Obama / Biden Administration about handling a pandemic, which he apparently threw away.

NZ update!

Just before posting this, I saw that New Zealand, after 102 days without any new cases, has had four pop up in Auckland. Four cases, no deaths.

My message, however, has been reinforced by the way they handled the new outbreak.

Late Tuesday night, Auckland time, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took to the airwaves to announce the cases – four people in one family – and ordered the entire nation moved from Alert Level 1 to Level 2, and Auckland moved to a Level 3.

This is a leader displaying leadership.

The United States needs such a leader again. We need to overwhelmingly vote in Democrats this fall.

Get registered, plan to vote, vote early, take a friend.

Meanwhile, stay at home if possible, wear a mask and wash your hands.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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