On May 23, I posted an article, Who Should Be in Charge of the COVID-19 Response? It concluded with, “The president, governors, county executives, and mayors clearly need to listen to the experts, both inside and outside of government but ultimately, the decisions will be made by elected officials.”
As a follow-up, I will periodically provide my assessments of the pandemic responses of various political leaders. These assessments are mine and mine alone, based on 25 years of work in the field of pandemic preparedness and response, and have nothing to do with partisan politics, the upcoming election, or issues not associated with the pandemic response.
On June 28, Vice President Pence implored Americans to wear face masks.
Assessment: It’s about damn time! Political leaders at all levels, and for that fact, media celebrities (yes, Laura Ingram I am talking about you) should be encouraging the use of masks, social distancing and hand washing. Every person in this country can play an important role in controlling this pandemic and getting America back to work.
On June 26, Texas Governor Greg Abbott stated, “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars.” In addition to re-closing bars, he also scaled back restaurant capacity to 50%, shut down rafting and tubing businesses, and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless approved by local officials.
Assessment: Kudos to Governor Abbott. I fully supported his bold decision on May 1 for beginning the process of re-opening Texas (guidance included a recommendation for wearing masks in public). The data clearly demonstrated the state-wide lockdown and ban on elective medical procedures were causing a greater public health threat to Texans than COVID-19. Governor Abbott demonstrated political courage in beginning the re-opening process for Texas in early May, and great judgement last Friday in making adjustments to policies–when the facts clearly called for such actions.
On March 7, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler demonstrated great political courage when they cancelled South by Southwest (SXSW), an international music, technology and film festival that annually brings 400,000 visitors and a third of a billion dollars to the local economy.
Assessment: The bold action of Judge Eckhardt and Mayor Adler, at a time when there were fewer than a dozen COVID-19 cases in Texas, likely prevented Travis County and Austin from becoming a major pandemic hotspot. Their actions saved untold numbers of lives.Continue Reading