Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 31, 2020
Actually, it’s a pretty perfect encapsulation of frustration on the last day of a very horrible 2020.
Here was Donald Trump tweeting early yesterday morning on the realities that his crown achievement of the year, getting vaccine research moving quickly, is hopelessly bogged down:
“The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!”
And there it is in 120 characters: Love me for what I’ve done and shut your mouth about any criticism. Look away from 325,000 American deaths from the pandemic — including Republican Luke Letlow, 41, an incoming member of Congress, many of which could have been avoided by taking a strong position on normal public health measures. And if anything is wrong here, it’s not my fault. I take no responsibility for the results.
Pure Donald Trump. Pure 2020. Pure personal politics over all else. Pure BS.
Despite repeated promises for rapid deployment with pressured emergency approvals from the Federal Drug Administration, and with two vaccines being distributed with at least two more in the pipeline, we find ourselves at the literal end of the year with 2 million inoculations complete rather than 20 million.
We have ended the year as we have lived the last four years, with Dear Leader preening himself, insisting to Washington and the nation that they heed his every requirement for adoration and reelection despite a substantial loss at the polls, and spending his days golfing and ignoring the realities that coronavirus is wreaking across the country.
We can all agree that there Is Zero Percent efficacy for vaccines that never make it to the arms of Americans.
Logistical issues, of course
States are finding that getting the earliest vaccines into literal arms is proving to be all the expected logistical challenge that had been predicted.
There are delays along the way from scattered reports of allergies, from complications of having omitted pregnant patients from clinical tests, from nursing homes only now starting the tedious job of collecting vaccine approval paperwork from family members. There are issues about refrigeration, as predicted, and there have been various administrative screw-ups, which should have been predicted.
It’ll get resolved in time, of course, just not immediately.
But rather than own the issue on behalf of anxious Americans, here is Donald Trump disowning any responsibility for getting the job done. We have Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, vacationing on the ski slopes of Colorado, we have babble from the mouths of federal health agency heads.
We have calls for immediate patience from governors trying to simultaneously stop additional surges of coronavirus, watch the airports for flights from the UK and elsewhere where new strains are reported, and seeking to find retirees and volunteers to man inoculation sites that are still located in the very hospitals that are overwhelmed with surges of new patients because too many Americans have decided to put their own holiday wishes over the general public health good.
And we have righteous anger from President-elect Joe Biden over the slow start to inoculations and the withholding of appropriate information about how it is all supposed to be working.
But what we don’t have is enough jump on stopping this virus in its tracks.
Everywhere but Mar-a-Lago
The nightly news from across the country reflect overfilled hospital wards for coronavirus that only re growing worse. The numbers of infected have reached nearly 20 million, with deaths rising an accelerating pace. The government’s great hope: Vaccines. Otherwise, there is talk of military precision, but no plan.
Instead, there is government dissension over every time Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimates move a little more about how we finally get to needed levels of immunity. There is Trump continuing to say schools, businesses and the economy should be fully open, and stoking political resistance to state orders for quarantines, masks and social distancing.
Trump talks bigger individual payments without getting Republican senators to go along, and with no linkage of the payments in return for temporary shutdowns of regions hard hit. Indeed, Trump and Republicans agree that little money should go to states to pay for distribution of vaccines or for hardening schools and businesses from contagion.
For Trump, the credit should go to him, the work should go to states.
Biden is offering us grim assessments about more death and troubles before vaccines can get to where they are needed, “the greatest operations challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation.”
As far as we can tell, by the end of this week, the government insists that about 14 million doses will have been distributed to states, although there’s been a lot of apologizing about whether those totals match what was promised by end of December. There is no real explanation of why that has resulted in 2 million inoculations by 50 states or hundreds of distribution points. Instead, there’s a whole lot of scrambling under way to prove that we’ve equally focused effort on manufacturing and drug store distribution partners, further vaccine approvals and respect for local decision-making about who gets the available vaccines.
There’s not a lot of government talk about what it hasn’t gotten done. In other words, it feels as if it is a replay of start-stop coordination of testing and any of broader plans to stop disease.
Is it too much to ask for people — Trump included — to do their jobs more completely?