My View: A Real Dereliction of Duty

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By David M. Greenwald

As stunning as the events were at the Capitol this week, there is a lesser told story of official negligence that in the long term might be an even more profound failure of this administration.  The President and his supporters celebrated when the vaccine for COVID was produced and available for market in record time.

Whether the president deserves credit for this or not is almost entirely irrelevant.  What has happened since the election shows that, while he may have won the war, we have lost the peace.  Or perhaps to revisit the analogy I used a few weeks ago, we have spiked the ball at the 20 yard line, to see our drive stall and not get into the actual end zone.

What we have seen since November is an almost complete abdication of leadership by the federal government in the area of COVID.  While we can fault the administration for failing to take the threat as seriously as they should have, we certainly fault them for creating an atmosphere among Trump’s supporters where regulations are fought against and masks are viewed as a sign against freedom rather than a mechanism to protect public safety.

What we have seen since the election is a crisis spinning out of control, threatening public health in ways that were entirely avoidable.  And now with multiple potential mutations, who knows how easy this will be to contain in the future.

It is perhaps fitting that the same week we saw the insurgence march on the Capitol, we have crossed two ominous new milestones.  First, on Thursday, the number of COVID deaths in a single day exceeded 4000 for the first time.  Remember that as recently as September, we were under 1000 a day, which means that the number of deaths has more than quadrupled in the last three months.

Second, on Friday, we topped a new record for new cases—over 300,000.  Again, in August we were mostly under 50,000 new cases in a day, so the number of new cases has increased more than six-fold since that time.

Over the last week, we have averaged nearly 260,000 cases a day, which is an increase of 40 percent over the average from just two weeks ago.

In December, 77,000 people died from COVID, by far the highest one-month total.  And unless things come under control quickly, January may well top 100,000 deaths.  The NY Times reports that the surge in deaths is not confined to a single region, with states like New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, Michigan and Texas each seeing 500 deaths in just a week.

The failure of federal officials and now state officials to get a handle on and attempt to contain the outbreak is a huge problem.  Too many people have been complacent.  Last week we saw a Congressman-elect, a relatively young man in his early 40s, die from COVID.  That should alarm people who think if they are relatively young that they will not face a severe case that ends up being life threatening.

The failure to contain is now being compounded by a very slow rollout of the vaccine.  In November, the national media was warning that the infrastructure and planning for the rollout was not being planned or funded.  That should have been a warning that we were going to face the type of problems that we have.

As of January 7, just under 6 million people had received the first dose of the vaccine.

As Fortune Magazine points out: “[A]ny close inspection of the facets and layers of a national vaccination rollout should lead us past politics and straight to the realization that, even under the best circumstances, it was never going to be smooth—and it was destined to take longer than anyone wanted to admit.”

That’s probably a good point.  We should have recognized the reality of coordinating something this massive and complex under the best of circumstances, and recognized that it would be fraught with difficulties that were not anticipated in the initial planning.

Still, Fortune doesn’t let the administration off the hook, noting the “administration’s bungling of the process hasn’t helped” and the “failures are amplified by the signals put out by the folks at the top. While the President plays golf and the vice president takes to the slopes in Vail, intensive care units (ICUs) are filling to capacity, with patients sometimes being attended in parking lots, hospital chapels, and gift shops.”

They add that “the one thing the Trump administration promised for months, a well-constructed distribution plan via Operation Warp Speed, looks like so many empty words.”

A few days ago the New York Times reported that “federal health officials recently acknowledged that the vaccine rollout had had a slower-than-expected start and said they did not have a clear understanding as to why only a portion of the doses shipped across the nation had made it into arms.”

The bottom line here—it is great that we have a vaccine, but without a viable distribution plan, that vaccine is not going to do much to stem the tide of COVID cases.  It is perhaps fitting that the cases are reaching new highs, weeks after the first vaccine was delivered.

We still haven’t reached the post-Christmas holiday spike and officials like Dr. Fauci continue to warn that the worst is yet to come.  Can a new Biden administration turn the tide, starting in about 11 days when they take over?  Time will tell.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 thoughts on “My View: A Real Dereliction of Duty”

  1. Keith Olsen

     Can a new Biden administration turn the tide, starting in about 11 days when they take over?  Time will tell.

    Everything will be great when Biden takes over.  At least that’s what will be reported by the biased mainstream media anyway.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        I think we can infer that Keith doesn’t believe that there is a real problem here, that all of this is simply a figment of the media’s imagination.

        1. Keith Olsen

          No, I’m saying that it won’t matter how Biden performs on this or any other issues because it will all get glossed over.

          It will be gliders, windmills and unicorns…(a Davis analogy)

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            His presidency will likely be judged on his ability to end the pandemic and what happens with the economy and perhaps whether he can steer us back to a more normal trajectory from the last four years. Keep in mind, Trump so lowered the bar that he will benefit from that – you have yourself to blame for that, btw (not you alone, but collectively). In that sense, you are correct, he likely will get much more of a pass than he might have at other times.

    1. Richard_McCann

      Keith O

      Your problem is that last two Democratic administrations have been relatively competent and haven’t had too many big screw ups, and the press has taken them to task where they did have significant failures, e.g., Somalia and Libya. On the other hand, the Republic administrations have largely been incompetent when facing major challenges, e.g., the Iraq invasion, Katrina, Great Recession, pandemic. Trump was perhaps the luckiest President to date for his first 3 years where he didn’t face a major crisis that required quick management (and punted on the California wildfires) so his incompetence wasn’t revealed until last spring. Bush had been the most incompetent modern President since at least Harding until Trump rolled in. This isn’t about ideology–it’s about capability. Jimmy Carter didn’t seem entirely up to the job either–he would have been much better as a chief of staff; Grey Davis was probably the least competent California Governor in a century, so this isn’t a partisan assessment.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Jimmy Carter didn’t seem entirely up to the job either–he would have been much better as a chief of staff; Grey Davis was probably the least competent California Governor in a century, so this isn’t a partisan assessment.

        LOL, I was never a big fan of Richard Nixon and Ca Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ended up being a joke, so my assessments must not be partisan either.

  2. Tia Will

    I have mixed feelings about one complex issue facing Biden. He has stated his intent to ramp up the distribution of the vaccine that requires two doses for full effectiveness by releasing the doses that were being held in reserve for the second round.

    If more vaccine becomes available for the second round shots, this may well have been the optimal response. If however, one shot is all people get when two is the recommended regimen, the efficacy could be significantly reduced. I speak from the position of relative ignorance that accompanies the management of any new viral immunization regimen. My point is to address the complexity of the issue and how this should never have been politicized in the first place, and should not be now.

      1. Bill Marshall

        The problems are that to date, there has been limited data, as to effectiveness, with either one or two doses… a ‘conservative’ (note little “c”, not UC “C”) approach at this point, with the vaccines just rolling, out is to stick with the two-shot regimen… 3-6 months from now, we’ll have more data, and might take a different approach… for now, my instincts are to ‘stay the course’ and stick with 2… this isn’t about individuals, it’s about the ‘herd’, and we have heard that a large %-age (20%?)of the ‘herd’ have indicated they don’t intend to get vaccinated… no matter…

        So, the rest of the ‘herd’ should go for any measures that look better for long term results, to offset the ‘refuseniks’…

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