Op Ed

A Red County Questions Federal Effort

Our government could win WWII but can’t manufacture enough masks to protect us from a virus?

By - May 10th, 2020 01:38 pm

The N95 style medical mask provides a higher level of protection than the more common tissue or cloth surgical mask. Photo by Banej [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)].

The N95 style medical mask provides more protection than the more common tissue or cloth surgical mask. Photo by Banej (CC BY-SA).

It is not hard to decipher how the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic is playing in the urban centers around Wisconsin. Going into 2020 there was already an oppositional view of Donald Trump and his policies in places like Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire. But the White House’s slow response to the grave health risks posed by the virus, along with not putting the full force of the federal government behind the mass production of needed items for doctors and nurses, has now brought dismay to both ends of the political spectrum.

I was truly surprised at this week’s front page of my home-county newspaper, the Waushara Argus. The county is rural and politically red, conservative, and proud of it. But above the fold in the paper some rather stunning words from Robert Sivick, the Waushara County Administrator, were published:

Traditionally the Federal government takes the lead in crisis situations and State and local governments follow suit. Unfortunately, that appears to no longer be the case. At the Federal level we hear conflicting directives ranging from claims of strong national authority to passing the buck to State and local governments.

To make the distance from the White House talking points even wider the administrator added the following:

Finally, we must accept the fact COVID-19 will be affecting our lives for some time to come. Only a vaccine and widespread inoculation will allow us a complete return to normalcy.

There is a recognition that come this fall and winter a resurgence of the virus is likely, and the only way for normal participation in society to again resume is to have a breakthrough with a vaccine. No one is believing, as Trump stated this week, that the virus will just disappear.

I am not in any way suggesting that Republican areas of the state are turning on Trump. Political allegiances run deep, and there is no doubt the conservative base is solid in their support of the incumbent. But that does not mean there is no frustration with how this pandemic has been handled by the federal government.

In phone conversations and Facebook chats with family and friends in that area one theme keeps being repeated. In advance of Governor Tony Evers’ order to stay home many in rural Wisconsin were already “hunkering down” and taking proactive steps such as making sure they had food items and essentials to make it through what they felt was coming. They now feel they have done their part – and in some cases more than their share.

But to learn that there were shortages of medical supplies and now disruptions with the meat supply have left some wondering how Washington did not have better thought-out plans. We could win a world war on the other side of the globe, one older man told me, but we could not manufacture enough face masks for the nation.

There are countless angles to be studied and written regarding the enormity of the pandemic. One sliver of that crisis will be the further erosion of faith that the citizenry has in government that it has the ability to meet the needs of the time. Some might argue that was by design, with Trump not wanting to use the power of the federal government.  In the rural places of this state where folks do not talk like policy wonks or follow each breaking headline, there are those who just believe that times like this are when the government must act.  And when it fails to do so something about their notion of America is lost.

That is sad.

Gregory Humphrey writes for the Caffeinated Politics blog.

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Categories: Health, Op-Ed, Politics

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