Letters: White House and Congress share blame for lack of national COVID strategy
Why is it that we still don’t have a national plan to address COVID-19? Because both political parties, even more than six months into the pandemic, can’t bury their differences and create one. Of course, it is an election year.
Clearly, we have two crises at hand: a deadly virus and a dysfunctional government. Abdication of strategic planning responsibility by both parties has cost us nearly 200,000 lives thus far.
Recent polling confirms that a majority of the American public believes the government did not take the coronavirus outbreak serious enough.
A national COVID-19 strategic plan would start with a mission—minimizing the occurrence and spread of COVID-19 and providing timely, high-quality treatment to those infected—and also goals, such as limiting new cases per capita and number of deaths within an area at a point in time (with access to dependable data for decisionmaking).
Quantitative objectives would be established, for example: frequency of screening for all long-term care facilities, schools, prisons and food processing plants; availability of daily testing at local public health departments and other venues for each U.S. county; rapid turnarounds (24-48 hours, for example) for testing; accuracy of tests; extensive contact tracing done within a reasonable period of time after receiving results; adequate stockpiles of personal protective equipment for all healthcare staffers and other essential workers. More objectives would be added as the pandemic continues to evolve—and when we finally have a safe and effective vaccine.
Of course we also need detailed actions to accomplish the aims. The budget would specify the personnel and other resources required to accomplish these actions. The plan would be specific, including responsibilities at each level of government.
Yes, the Trump administration failed to take a stronger role and should have acted much sooner. But Congress also could have taken the initiative—in a bipartisan fashion—to gather experts and propose a plan of its own, given the executive branch appears dysfunctional. Government has done an excellent job of propping up businesses through relief efforts such as the CARES Act, but it has done a poor job of planning for and funding testing, contact tracing, school openings and supporting local/state government COVID efforts.
Congress shouldn’t just throw money at a problem without specific goals.
Hopefully, things will change. In regard to coordinated pandemic planning on the national level, it could not get much worse.
Peachtree City, Ga.
Regarding “COVID-19 vaccine latest flashpoint in White House campaign,” the prospect of a vaccine to shield Americans from coronavirus infections emerged as a point of contention in the presidential race as President Donald Trump accused Democrats of “disparaging” for political gain a vaccine he repeatedly has said could be available before the election.
This issue raises several questions. How do we decide if it is better to take the first vaccine approved, or wait a few months to learn which of the several vaccines being developed looks like it is the safest and most effective? Will one vaccine turn out to work better in the elderly, and another in people of color? If you get the first vaccine that is approved, does that preclude you from taking a much better vaccine with a different mechanism of action several months later?
In any case, we will all probably have to continue wearing masks and social distancing well into 2021, especially if even the best vaccine is less than 80% effective in preventing infection, particularly with all the anti-vaxxers around who will prevent or delay us reaching herd immunity.
Dr. Myles Riner
Incline Village, Nev.