“Wayne Gretzky, he doesn’t go where the puck is, he’s going where the puck is going to be. Well, we want to be where the infection is going to be, as well as where it is.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci, 3-3-20

I drive a 12-year-old pickup truck, but my wife drives a top of the line Mercedes 550. Shade tree mechanics are cheap, and that’s good enough for my rusty old heap. If it comes to the Mercedes, my wife wants an expert.

When it comes to healthcare, we should all listen to the experts, not the shade tree mechanic types with little knowledge of the specific problem. For infectious diseases, that means listening to authorities like Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. 

Nationally, back in early February, Dr. Fauci was telling us to get ahead of the game, “I can see that the virus and the pattern of disease continues to accelerate.” (JAMA, 2-6-20) And telling us to have a strategic containment plan “focused on the proven public health practices of containment – identifying cases, isolating patients, and tracing contacts.” (3-3-20, Senate testimony) However, we are still doing a very bad job of containment, with both a lack of testing capability (despite false promises from Trump, Pence, and other political types that millions of tests would be available early on) and erratic isolation and tracing of those contaminated. 

At this point, we are also failing regarding treatment. Our medical workers clearly don’t have the supplies they need, including protective gear and respirators. Trump procrastinated in February and early March, waiting until late March to finally require GM and Ford to begin making ventilators. Despite the misleading information coming out of the White House, the masks are still an open question with medical personnel wearing single-use disposable masks for many hours on end, endangering the very people risking their lives to treat us. (Note: The White House has finally moved to require 3M to provide more masks for use here. It has been said that they have been sending many of them overseas.)

On a state level, some states (WA, NY, CA, etc.) have moved rapidly. In the South, few have had state-wide strong shelter in place orders until very recently. In many Southern states, Governors have procrastinated, fiddling like Nero while their states figuratively burned, with Florida keeping its beaches open to spread the pandemic. 

Georgia has had 176 deaths and 5,444 infected (4-3-20), and it’s rapidly getting much, much worse. As of 4-3-20, our Governor has finally taken stronger comprehensive action to have a state-wide mandatory “shelter in place.” However, how many deaths could have been avoided by implementing the mandatory 4-3 Executive Order much earlier?

With four deaths and 58 cases (4-3-20, DPH, but probably more due to insufficient testing and reporting), Fayette has been hit relatively hard. Even though Fayette ranks 19th of the 159 counties in deaths, strangely it was still one of the counties failing to have a mandatory shelter in place (versus voluntary guidelines) before the 4-3 state-wide mandate. 

Fortunately, the Georgia Municipal Association did take a strong stand early on, recommending that all cities in our state issue a shelter in place resolution. The City of Fayetteville issued such a resolution, although it subsequently backed off to some extent. Inexplicably, Peachtree City never did much, with the Mayor instead opting for a watered-down version of Kemp’s original weak state guidelines that were in place prior to 4-3. Why didn’t they issue strong mandates early on about mandatory sheltering in place for everyone?

On a broader level, why haven’t stronger measures been enacted throughout the nation, but especially in the South? For example, why are restaurants still open for “dining-in” in states like Alabama? Are these Governors willing to have thousands die unnecessarily so that their state economy won’t crash, hindering their election prospects?

The scientific community knew what to do to lessen COVID-19’s impact and spread but was ignored by many politicians. We are in a war against a tough enemy. Government on all levels has been slow to recognize this fact. 

Our elected officials should have already enacted many measures to contain the virus but chose to wait. As the death toll mounts over the next few months, voters should think about why these national, state, and local politicians failed to act in a timelier manner. Was it simply anti-science ignorance? Or was it pressure from big business contributors and special Tea Party interest groups key to their election?

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.