The Next Time

As lockdowns and mandates fade away, now is an excellent time to consider steps we should take the next time we face a pandemic. By all accounts, we got off to a terrible start and never got ahead of the disease. The media blames the Trump administration. But what exactly did Trump do wrong?

Where else to look for the answer than the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist David Leonhardt. In a March 15, 2020 column, he listed all the things Trump should’ve done but didn’t. He should’ve listened to the “experts” because he did everything wrong.

He downplayed the pandemic and failed to provide for adequate testing. Even though he restricted travel between China and Europe, it was far too little and possibly racist. Were these Trump’s mistakes or failures of the Government medical establishment? 

The testing debacle resulted from the CDC and FDA developing their tests rather than being open to those created by others. Even if Trump knew what the CDC and FDA were up to, could he have ordered tests from private parties and other labs without cries of interference? The CDC test was flawed, setting us back, and we have never fully recovered. A terrible result, but not Trump’s.

The last thing a President should do is create panic. Trying to maintain calm while assembling the correct data is part of the job. The idea he was underplaying is contradicted by Dr. Anthony Fauci going on natioal TV on Fe. 29, 2020, and telling us there was no need to make any changes in our lifestyles. 

If there was confusion and a testing disaster, it came from our “medical experts.” Presidents rely on our top brass for military advice and readiness. Like any other president, Trump had to trust his medical team. That team even failed to provide enough PPE for a pandemic. Did the NYT expect Trump to count our N95 masks? 

Let’s not forget Trump used a different team for Operation Warp Speed to bring us vaccines and therapeutics in record time.

Who did our government medical establishment tout as one doing all the right things? Dr. Fauci lauded N.Y.Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in contrast to Trump as the one doing everything right. The media echoed his praise.

Of course, we now know from the strict lockdown to putting infected people in nursing homes, the Gov. did a terrible job. Cuomo’s crying about unmet needs caused a massive diversion of assets to New York. Remember the empty hospital ship and field hospitals? All the ventilators he demanded we ultimately gave to other nations? I’ve previously commented on how Florida did the opposite of New York and fared better in virtually all aspects. 

If doing the opposite of Trump isn’t the answer, I’d like to make a few proposals. First of all, we need a medical policy advisor in the highest echelons of government. Someone to collect the data and determine how it affects our society. Communicable disease people “experts” dominated from the beginning. Their preeminence froze out others, such as pediatricians, uneasy over school closures. Fear of being pictured as favoring money over lives, non-medicals like Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow couldn’t bring up the bigger picture. 

Later in 2020, Trump did bring in Dr. Scott Atlas to advise on Covid policy. He provided the data to support those states opening schools and lessening the lockdowns. Unfortunately, undoing entrenched lockdowns and school closures in mainly blue states proved difficult. He detailed his difficulties dealing with the government medical establishment in his book “A Plague Upon Our House.”

Being an advisor isn’t enough power to handle the big picture; instead of being a political appointment or filling some ethnic or visual spot, the HHS Sectary needs to be a medical policy expert. The defense secretary needs to be versed in defense, and the HHS secretary needs similar knowledge to control the department. The stakes are too high for novices. If Dr. Fauci’s boss were coordinating all aspects of the pandemic, it would’ve kept him and others in their proper lanes. Alex Azar, Trump’s HHS Secretary, was a lawyer who did good work, especially for Warp Speed, but didn’t have the needed medical bona fides. 

The periodic change of HHS Secretaries should mean fresh eyes on our capabilities. In accessing a new disease with all the data on the table, we can determine where to marshall our resources. For instance, we knew before any state lockdowns, Covid was a disease mainly affecting the elderly and those with co-morbidities. Risk-reward told us to do our best to protect the ar-risk.

An HHS Secretary with an overall policy view is likely to be the best spokesperson. Speaking with one authoritative voice rather than say Trump’s often confusing and adversarial TV updates. The Secretary would keep the public better informed while moving the president out of the line of fire.

With lockdown and mandates evaporating worldwide, the NYT’s Leonhardt now says we should focus on the elderly and the vulnerable. The data never changed. We will long suffer from ignoring it, especially the children. Funny, he never mentioned this approach in his original criticism. I and others certainly did at the time.

The medical community needs to be involved right from the beginning. We know those most affected by Covid, but the next pandemic may affect other groups. Your doctor is the one who knows your frailties. Directly conveying recommendations to patients is invaluable. Hearing it from your doctor is different from a general government recommendation or mandate. We might turn our backs on what we perceive as an infringement on our rights, but it’s hard to ignore when your doctor tells you if you don’t do something, there’s a good chance it will kill you. I’d bet many more people would be vaccinated today if we went this route. 

Doctors treat and prescribe so they know the patient is in danger. I even suggested doctors include a survey to their at-risk patients to find out their needs to stay safe. Never using this resource to me is a crime.

Standard testing procedures to determine any possible use in the medicine cabinet to stem a pandemic are necessary. We finally agreed on the value of vitamin D3 after two years, but we’re still fighting over Hydroxchloriquine. Fair and consistent trials could assure people we’re doing our best to sort the chaff from the wheat. Both therapeutics and vaccines have parts to play in saving lives.

The lack of widespread usage of vitamin D also illustrates the failure of doctor-patient communication. Most of the at-risk have periodic blood tests. Those should show any D deficiency. That is how my doctor told me to supplement. Where is your doctor?

These are a few things for inevitable future pandemics we need to address. Pointing out past mistakes only helps if we apply the lessons in the future.   

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