Is it the worst of times or the marginally inconvenient of times? One thing we can probably be sure of is that the future will not be kind to one of the two leaders.
The reaction to COVID-19 will be scrutinized, analyzed, and politicized for years, maybe centuries, to come. Unfolding before our eyes is a tale of two countries on the brink of either a wide-spread health crisis or an economic crisis – potentially both but definitely not neither.
“Enough is enough,” Trudeau stated with uncharacteristic impatience during a media availability from his front steps on March 23 where he has been in isolation since his wife tested positive for COVID-19.
“Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing.”
It’s basically what every medical professional has been saying, in every province, no matter which ideology the current government of said province adheres to.
In B.C., Dr. Bonnie Henry asks people to stay home if they can. In Alberta, Dr. Deena Hinshaw asks people to practice social distancing and stay home if they can. In Manitoba Dr. Brent Roussin asks people to stay home if they can. The message is the same – until you look across the invisible, yet observed, 49th parallel.
“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump tweeted late Sunday.
“AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO.”
While people have been “encouraged” to stay home in the U.S., much like Canada, photos of families on Florida beaches graced social media last week – also much like Canada, although it was a Vancouver beach.
Students on spring break flocked to raves and parties across the U.S.. New York and California declared a state of emergency. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who is almost 70, said he feared an economic upheaval more than anything.
“No one reached out to me and said ‘as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in,” he told FOX’s Tucker Carlson Monday.
It’s the public policy version of “take one for the team”.
Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, sent out a tweet thread responding to the calls of “prominent U.S. voices” to scale back on social distancing for the economy’s sake.
Inglesby notes there have been 40,000 cases identified with around 100 deaths as of March 23.
“We don’t have the capacity to diagnose many of the COVID cases that are not sick enough to be in the hospital, so those numbers aren’t counted in our national totals,” he said.
“In Asia, they’ve slowed the disease by slowing social interaction. To drop all these measures now would be to accept that COVID patients will get sick in extraordinary numbers all over the country, far beyond what the U.S. health system will bear.”
Trump is a business man – he measures numbers and bottom lines. There’s little doubt that he’s looking at the business case of rapid, massive spread over a few months versus a complete economic shut down today. (Note: the nuance is that the president believes the former-hoax-now-potential-threat will go away on its own.)
Here’s the business case for the former:
- death of seniors = reduction in medicare expenses and social security payments, added benefit of estate taxes and moving money to the next generation
- death of chronically ill = reduction in medicare expenses and disability or social welfare payments
- death of workers = more jobs available
There is no business case for the latter because it isn’t about bottom lines, it’s about American lives.
No one knows what would have happened if the government did absolutely nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19 because it has yet to be attempted.
We’ve seen what can happen when social distancing and isolation is slow to be implemented but how slow is too slow?
We are watching history in the making – there will be heroes and villains. The window of opportunity to be the former may be a small one, according to medical specialists, but has anyone really taken the time to ask the accountants?
This post contains opinion
Deirdre is a reporter based in southern Alberta.