With half of a terrible ’20 now done, can federal torpor on pandemic change?

covidcasesus4july-300x154The nation shudders into the second half of 2020, months deep into an unchecked Covid-19 pandemic that has infected 2.8 million Americans and killed roughly 130,000 of us.

America has become the coronavirus’s outbreak epicenter, its would-be travelers shunned by leading nations around the world as too risky to allow without quarantines or outright bans.

Five states set new infection records, and 40 of the 50 states report worrisome spikes in detected coronavirus cases (see New York Times graphic, above, of newly reported U.S. Covid-19 cases).

Although some reckless optimists find solace in a slightly dipping Covid-19 fatality curve, death persists as the disease’s U.S. calling card:

  • Congressional Democrats’ say their research finds at least 7,000 patient deaths in assisted living facilities — separate and atop the 50,000 or so lives lost in nursing home infections. The new death toll may be much higher and the situation in the facilities far worse because assisted living centers, unlike nursing homes, are not subject to federal oversight, including now required reporting of Covid-19 infections and deaths among residents and staff, the members of Congress say. “We are simply not doing enough to protect our seniors or workers in assisted living homes from this deadly virus,” U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), said of the findings put out by his office and by his colleague U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
  • The Washington Post reported that expert analyses detect the likelihood “thousands more deaths than would have been expected from heart disease and a handful of other medical conditions.” These “excess deaths” are tied to the pandemic but may not be recorded in its toll. As the newspaper noted: “While several experts said some of the excess deaths in the analysis were almost certainly unrecognized fatalities from Covid-19, the review suggests that many patients suffering from serious conditions died as a result of delaying or not seeking care as the outbreak progressed and swamped some hospitals.”

President Trump, golfing, Tweeting, and focusing on his re-election campaign, keeps steering his administration far from important federal leadership in a pandemic response. Instead, the reported reset of the official administration stance will revolve around this concept of how Americans should view the coronavirus, the economic collapse it has caused, including record joblessness, and the disease’s death and infections: Live with it.

The shifting and shambolic federal inaction, however, leaves Americans in the throes of an unprecedented uncertainty. It is taking a visible toll on how they live and their frightened efforts to restore normality. Without leadership from the top:

In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the high value in their staying healthy and away from the U.S. health care system. Until medical science comes up with a way to prevent or better treat it, the coronavirus will continue to pose the possibility of swamping our health resources. In their better times, they already had notable problems with infections acquired in hospitalsnursing homes, and other medical care giving facilities, as well as major challenges with medical error and misdiagnoses.

That said, the system and the providers in it need our support. As recent experiences with the coronavirus have amply shown, dire consequences result when doctors, first responders, clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals get overwhelmed by serious infections. The trend lines look terrible in Florida, Texas, and Arizona. We need to heed the evidence- and science-based guidance of medical and public health experts, not hip-shooting, loud-mouthed political partisans pushing bunk for their own gain. It looks as if, more than ever, we need to research information carefully, make good choices based on the best available evidence and science, and protect ourselves and our own with less support than usual from our government and officials.

That is turning into a tragic reality. But what’s next? Are current circumstances really the argument that advocates want for the philosophy that the government that governs least governs best? Starve the beast and keep the federal government out of Americans’ lives and especially their health care? Maybe not. The rest of us have lots of work to do to defeat the coronavirus and move the country to a far better place than it is now.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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