COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials across the United States should have shouldered the heavy burden and become the backbone of the fight against the epidemic. However, since the outbreak of the epidemic, public health officials have been retired or resigned early, resulting in many public health departments “idling” and the pace of epidemic prevention.
Behind this is a more serious problem of government “idling”. Not only are there serious vacancies in federal departments, but also the states are fighting separately and lack coordinated and unified anti-epidemic measures. Many analysts believe that it is this kind of “one-spread sand” situation that seriously restricts the response to the epidemic in the United States.
Health officials “run away”
According to Business Insider, doctors, nurses and public health officials in the Midwest, a hot spot of the epidemic in the United States, have said recently that they are facing antagonism among people who refuse to take preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus. One of the emergency doctors said he received death threats. Another North Dakota health official said she was called “Nazi” and “tyrant”. And Nebraska health officials said helplessly about patients: “Sometimes it is still difficult to change their minds.”
The American media sorted it out and found that many public health officials and medical workers finally chose to leave their posts due to the huge misunderstanding of society. The huge pressure of work, censorship from the government, attacks by some radical people and other factors make them overwhelmed, let alone experience the sense of honor and achievement they deserve.
For example, in other parts of the world, the issuance of mask orders is the most normal epidemic prevention measures, but in many county-level administrative regions of the United States, mask orders have triggered continuous protests, and local officials have been physically attacked and even threatened with death, looking for other positions. Public health officials in one California said of the reasons for the resignation that it was precisely because the mask order was issued throughout the county that made them feel “personal safety threatened”.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, many health officials in California have left, including Nevada, Wisconsin and other states, and other senior health officials have left for similar reasons, which has more or less affected the normal operation of the local public health department. In addition, many health officials work 100 hours a week, often exhausted, and in addition to overtime, must be questioned and reviewed by other officials and the public in various hearings, and be alwaysware of harassment by anti-scientific personnel.
In federal departments such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the media continues to expose the review of epidemic reports by teams without medical and scientific backgrounds, and even interfere in scientific research and data collection. In addition, senior officials at the federal level are often “disrespectful” to the health profession, and even defame the public. Common health experts, all of which, have caused dissatisfaction with some professionals within the government, some of whom are gradually emerging, further exacerbating the phenomenon of “idling” in the health sector.
The analysis suggests that filling vacancies in public health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic is more difficult than usual. It is easy to drive an expert away. It is often unlikely to invite them back or even invite new experts to join, especially in the current situation of many distrust of the government in professional circles. Therefore, it is understandable that according to the Washington Post, up to one-fifth of high-level scientific positions are still vacant in this year’s epidemic year.
Many states fight separately.
At a time when health experts continue to lose, the embarrassing situation of “seated” epidemic prevention in various states in the United States continues. Since mid-November, Oregon, Washington, California, New York and other regions have introduced epidemic prevention measures, including urging to avoid unnecessary travel, requiring bars, restaurants and gyms to close as soon as possible, and limiting the number of family gatherings. But more than 10 Republican-ruled states still explicitly oppose the implementation of mask orders statewide, as well as new restrictions on the size of business and the size of people gathering, according to the U.S. political news website Politico.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has once again expressed concern about the “dispersion of sand” of the United States’ anti-epidemic efforts. He stressed that the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic is on the whole country, and anti-epidemic action needs to be coordinated. But the problem is that, as Peter Hotez, a professor at Baylor Medical School in the United States, said, the epidemic in the United States has not been effectively controlled, and the root cause is the lack of a national-level epidemic response plan.
“State-by-state epidemic response to a dispersion of sand caused the epidemic in the United States to almost get out of control.” Peter Hotz pointed out that “we have no unified leadership and no unified response at the national level. The states are basically isolated. It is a terrible scenario that there is no (pandemic response) plan at the national level. Essentially, the state government makes its own decisions, and the state government lets individuals make their own decisions.
The Washington Post analyzed that in the early days of the outbreak, the White House told state governors that they had to deal with the epidemic on their own. Now in the period of soaring cases after the reopening of the economy, the negative impact of this decentralized decision-making is particularly obvious and affected by partisan politics, and some states have also made arbitrary decisions. These contradictory behaviors are the concentrated embodiment of the “one-pan sand dispersion” phenomenon in response to the epidemic in various states.
The states are fighting separately, and of course the Federation cannot be separated from it. In addition to the often contradictory policy signals at the federal level and the frequent disregard for health officials’ recommendations, the “idle” of federal coordination is also an important reason. For example, according to previous incomplete media statistics, nearly 20% of the positions in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a key department to fight against the epidemic, have not been identified, and many positions are vacant or only performed by others.
After the U.S. election, due to the poor transition of power, the federal government further “idling” and the White House coronavirus response working group were ineffective, causing the problem of federal dysfunction to become prominent again and further aggravate the epidemic prevention situation. Looking at the introduction of various epidemic prevention measures, we can find that the prevention and control of the epidemic in the true sense is basically borne by the states, and there is a lack of unified coordination at the national level, which is considered to be an important reason for the failure of epidemic prevention.
The New York Times pointed out that the chaos in the United States’ response to the epidemic is reflected not only in the division of cultural ideas of the people in society, but also in the differences between parties, the federal government and the states. As confirmed cases continue to soar, so are the deaths, and behind these cold numbers are the passing of life and the grief and heartbreak of countless families, as well as federal-level dysfunction and “help”.
During this year’s election, the number of mass gatherings in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Indiana and many other areas increased the risk of the spread of the virus. U.S. infectious disease experts suspect that these gatherings may lead to the “super spread” of the virus. Stanford economists analyzed 18 campaign gatherings held between June and September to conclude that these campaign gatherings resulted in at least 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and could result in more than 700 deaths.
Some disease experts point out that strict contact tracing for mass gatherings can help accurately predict the spread of the virus at such gatherings, but the United States lags significantly behind other countries in this regard, not only because of insufficient funds, but also because of the lack of coordination in the government in contact tracing. All of these problems ultimately point to dysfunction at the federal level.
“The federal government’s response to the pandemic is fragmented, and instead of taking coordinated action from top down, the responsibility is left to the states,” said Eleanor Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University. If the country’s medical crisis and political crisis were once separate, then it’s not.” The Atlantic Monthly pointed out that “the United States is sleepwalking into what may be the largest outbreak so far.”