Why have we let the pandemic pit states against each other?
A long time ago, long before the pandemic hit we were governed by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Basically, the federal government had very little power and the country was individual states doing their own thing. This was a train-wreck. The whole reason the Constitutional Convention in 1787 convened was to create a better way to manage the country. As it was, Congress feared the new nation was not going to be able to ward off efforts from the British to take back what had been theirs. The result was the Constitution.
Covid-19 has sent us back in time
Today, it feels like we are living in the U.S. circa 1777. By not taking a strong stand on the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government abdicated its responsibility and left decisions to the states. Red states support President Donald Trump and took longer to issue stay at home orders, promote mask-wearing and social distancing and started opening up earlier. By contrast blue states did the opposite. During the early months, the lack of federal control of collecting and distributing needed medical equipment meant that it all became state vs. state. Governors across the nation complained about having to bid against each other — and sometimes against the federal government — to buy supplies they needed. Some resorted to buying and hiding what they had so the feds wouldn’t step in and take it all.
Now that we are five months in, this state v. state looks a little different. Early in the pandemic, Florida said New Yorkers entering Florida would have to self-quarantine for 14 days. The consequences for violating this are a fine of $500, up to 60 days in jail (the best place to get Covid-19). As the cases in Florida has skyrocketed and the cases in New York have plummeted, New York issued a new decree; no one from the states that have rising cases can come to the Empire State unless they will spend 14 days in quarantine. People who refuse will face a fine.
My state is better than your state
This is purely anecdotal but people I know in New York, where I live, do not seem all that concerned about what Floridians think of our state or how Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled Covid-19 but Floridians I know seem obsessed. Maybe they are bitter about #FloridaMan. We never should be in a place where we delight or rejoice at seeing other Americans die. I have family and friends in the Sunshine State and the last thing I want to see them suffer or die from this (or anything).
Having lived through the worst (I hope) of the pandemic in New York, my first thought is, “Good for Florida, they dodged a bullet.” The problem is that the numbers do not always tell a complete story. In the last few weeks, Covid-19 has mounted a comeback and cases are surging all over the country. But consider the following:
- The death rate so far has remained lower than in the spring. There are a few reasons for this. The death rate is a lagging indicator. People get sick, go to the hospital (or not) and die sometime later. Just because cases are rising does not mean they start dying at the same time. We don’t know what the real death count will be from this recent surge.
- We have better treatments now than we had when this started. That is a good thing. As the novel coronavirus has been studied, doctors have been given more tools to fight it.
- The death rate doesn’t tell the whole story about how bad a disease this is. One of the scariest things about Covid-19 is how long-lasting the impact can be. MRIs of the brains of people who spent time in the ICU show damage consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Many of these people require time in a rehab facility before going home.
It’s NEVER a bad thing when the mortality rate for a disease goes down. But to look at this data in a vacuum and extrapolate from it that Florida has done a better job than New York, for example, is shortsighted at best and harmful at worst.
We have let ourselves fall into this space. Rather than pit New York against Florida, a better way to handle this is to ask, “What can Florida learn from New York?” or “What can the world learn from the Floridian response?” We have taken the scientific/ medical and superimposed politics. How’s the working out? Not well.
I was raised to believe that we are all Americans. Floridians, New Yorkers, even people from New Jersey. Until we get back to that (and to the belief in empirical facts, we are doomed.