Americans Gave Up a Lot to Stop the Pandemic. Our Leaders Wasted that Sacrifice.

tags: public health, social distancing, COVID-19

David Perry is a journalist and senior academic adviser to the history department at the University of Minnesota.

When I first heard about the plans for social distancing in late February as a response to the coronavirus, I thought it was impossible, given Americans’ tendency to value individualism over the common good.

But Americans did something extraordinary: They trusted the science, accepted the concept of social distancing, went home and stayed there. It came at great financial and emotional cost, but most of us did this in hopes of preventing mass death from a pandemic. Even when we shut down, far too many were left exposed to the virus due to our inequalities around race, class, gender, disability, how we treat our elderly and more. Everyone sacrificed though, even as some sacrificed everything.

All of it was wasted.

Since the coronavirus arrived, Americans have come together in greater unity than I would have expected, only to have decision-makers squander our efforts: The Trump administration was focused more on appearances than results. New York’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, hesitated too long to close schools and playgrounds, and kept going for walks in Brooklyn even as he demanded New Yorkers stay home (he lives in Manhattan). Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo led with more resolve, but a ProPublica investigation revealed that he sent covid-19 patients to nursing homes, leading to massive rates of infection among the elderly. In the American South and Southwest, Republican governors underplayed the threat and opened too soon. Nearly everything our most prominent leaders did was wrong, even as a not-so-silent majority of Americans keeps trying to do the right things.

Read entire article at Washington Post