The spectrum of Covid governance
In the first two weeks New Zealand would jump from 100 to 1100 cases. In a similar window of time the US would jump from 1 to 5 hundred thousand cases. Week 2 of the global surge and the whole world watched with horror as the stats exploded. It was a sizable sigh of relief though to be watching from home and appreciating that the country is already in hibernation mode.
On the economic front in New Zealand, there were so many announcements about economic aid packages that I couldn’t keep track. A 33 billion liquidity programme of large scale asset purchases, or quantitative easing, is announced to buttress the New Zealand economy.
Anyone who has lost 30% of income compared to last year can apply for a wage subsidy to cover up to 80% of their previous wages. Citizen, visa holder, contractor, whatever. Its enough to maintain the unemployment rate. Rent freezes are enacted for the next six months and evictions are limited to ensure that everyone has a place to isolate. Mortgage holidays are made available to all homeowners whose jobs are impacted by the lockdown. A feedback loop is set up for people to flag where they suspect price gouging so that the government can investigate and require businesses to provide a valid reason for increasing prices.
The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are deemed essential workers but if people could help the Easter Bunny by putting an egg in their windows for the children to find on their walks, that would be nice. Done. Home-drawn eggs join all the teddy bears in neighborhood windows. By week three New Zealand is starting to see more recoveries than new cases. And every day the ratio of confirmed to recovered increases. The concept of the bubble is taken on wholeheartedly and soon an article takes a world stage New Zealand isn’t just flatting the curve we’re smashing it.
It gives us the mental freedom to delve into entertaining sides of our quarantine. Our house enjoys the benefits of a shared morning work out routine and long luxurious breakfasts. In the evening, we can take a walk downtown and dance in the middle of the most trafficked cross streets in Wellington and not have to move for a car from any direction. A young humpback whale explores the Wellington harbor and a pod of killer whales are spotted hugging the waterline along the Kapiti coast.
Then my civically minded spirit animal orgasms when our Governor, Adrian Orr, announced that he took a voluntary 20% pay reduction for six months. His decision aligned with the salary cuts adopted by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, all Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, and many other public service chief executives.
By the end of 4 weeks New Zealand would be prepared to ease restrictions. 70% of our 1,400 odd cases would recover and new cases held within single digits.
On the other side of the spectrum…
In the US Trump can’t curb the diarrhea of pathological bull shit spewing from his mouth. The daily press conferences will be saved as a record in the United States Library of Congress but most media outlets debate whether or not to broadcast him or shield the nation from the lies. He promotes an untested malaria drug, Remdesivir, as the new savior vaccine. Or wait was it Hydroxychloroquine? The studies aren’t there and the scientists won’t back him which only causes the idiocracy to bubble up even more inside of him until he just tells everyone to ingest disinfectants. And then the whole world’s media stream erupts in useless noise and the quality of the conversation deteriorates into his level of idiocracy.
California is recognized as a role model for early action and can afford to send thousands of ventilators to other states which are going through spikes. The shortage of PPE is dire though and without Trump’s use of the Defense Production Act, Americans are rallying to donate homemade masks to hospitals which are still rationing as little as one mask per health worker per day. Some stats conclude that up to 10% of new infections are attributable to health workers.
Then the Feds uncover that California was scammed in an attempt to purchase 47 million masks but only because they were trying to intercept the purchase to make themselves look better. Massachusetts and Florida suffer similar interference by the Feds. So now in addition to competing in global price wars, all the states have to arrange secret chartered flights of supplies.
Meanwhile, the virus percolates through middle America. The army corp of engineers distributes plans to states to convert buildings to into 1000+ person hospital beds with centralized ventilator air. Party lines determine which states can or can’t be inconvenienced to limit business or movement while New York averages 700 deaths per day for a week straight. Where Democratic governors impose safety measures MAGA idiots, encouraged by Trump, protest outside of state capitols with confederate flags, gorilla gear and machine guns.
Even though testing is recognized as the key enabler to provide the data needed to figure out how reopen the economy, the availability of testing sees decreases rather than increases across the nation. The national unemployment rate sky rockets past historical records to 10% but no one can get through because unemployment offices are flooded.
Nursing homes, meat packing facilities, and prisons gain airtime as hidden hot spots. Since most are privately owned they refuse to release any information about infection rates and aren’t supported to test nor are their staff trained to prevent further spread. There is no national response or data collected but local news outlets start to report the number of speculated deaths from hot spot nursing homes. The CDC is muzzled from demanding, much less enforcing, necessary precautions to protect workers. Instead ‘at convenience recommendations’ are handed down and Trump signs an order requiring meat packing facilities to stay open.
Data also trickles out about the massive racial disparity of COVID infections and deaths. Chicago’s population is 30% African American but the demographic is making up 70% of the COVID-19 deaths; but the news gets sidelined by the administration as unpleasant for his image.
By the end of April Trump fires the vaccine specialist for not agreeing to push Trump’s gut feel for his friend’s vaccine. Rick Bright, the director of the US health department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is replaced with a crony assistant who has no experience in public health, medicine or management but does claim previous credentials as a labradoodle breeder. Funding to the World Health Organisation is cut off and more media frenzy pollutes the airways with blame game rhetoric and punitive bashing.
The dichotomy between the two ends of the spectrum is really incomprehensible. Just capturing three weeks of headlines paints a mind numbing picture and yet it does very little to portray the psychological impacts of being under such regimes. So while none of this content is new or worth reading twice, I thought it was important to capture because while locked down, there is little we can do but watch. And it would be natural to lose perspective if we only ever see one end of the spectrum. Its of no wonder that we teeter between willful blindness and combative rage as well as helplessness and responsibility beyond our jurisdiction.