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In the Age of COVID-19, Where are Our Leaders?

By | 2020-05-15T10:13:18-04:00 April 30th, 2020|COVID-19, Opinions, Viewpoints|

Over the last couple of months, we have seen the coronavirus rapidly transform from a small outbreak halfway across the world into a full-fledged global pandemic. What was once a news story in a different country is now wreaking unprecedented havoc on our entire society. The need for capable leadership and data-driven policy is essential at a time like this.
Across the country, we are seeing mayors and governors step up to lead their regions with actions to protect their citizens and minimize the spread of coronavirus. However, we have yet to see this same level of leadership and incorporation of scientific data at a national level. President Trump still has not proposed a unified plan that keeps us safe and restarts the economy. Recently, he said, “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total” — it is not — and then turned around and told governors, “You’re going to call your own shots.”
We have watched as he called the virus a hoax, slow step utilization of the defense production act and make false claims daily about the virus’ nature and spread. Now, he’s taking credit for the crucial economic stimulus plan that Democrats in Congress worked overtime to fix from its corporate bailout origins while preventing an independent watchdog from overseeing the process.
This is a failure of leadership.
In 2018, Trump dissolved the White House’s pandemic response team seeing no use for them as the U.S. was not facing a pandemic. Even as experts claimed that the biggest current threat to the U.S. was a pandemic, Trump brushed off the concerns of experts in the field and never looked back. Trump scrambled to create a pandemic response team that did not rely on experts, but rather his most loyal supporters and, for some reason, an infomercial host. Our first responders, doctors and nurses, and everyday citizens are suffering because of it.
Yet, there are bright lights coming from state and local leaders.
Across the country, we have seen numerous mayors rise to the occasion to fully utilize the power of their office to lead their citizens and protect their cities in ways that instill trust and faith in local government. In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was one of the first in the country to halt the shutoff of vital utilities to citizens who may be late or unable to pay their bills at all during the pandemic, ensuring that citizens would not be further affected in ways beyond their control. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti took extra steps to ensure companies were adhering to the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order by announcing that any non-essential business remaining open during the order would have their utilities shut off to halt operations. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot acted quickly to open up new lines of funding for the city’s coronavirus response initiatives to allow the city to move quickly in the actions it must take to combat the effects of coronavirus.
On a larger scale, we have seen governors throughout the country utilize the power of their offices to protect their citizens and states while the White House slow rolls its response. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has been on the forefront of coronavirus response and made national headlines with his pressuring of the White House to respond quickly and meet the needs of his and other states before the pandemic causes further damage. Michigan’s very own Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been ahead of the curve in her response and now joined with other governors to create a regional approach to reopening the economy.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has reacted quickly with innovation as his response as his state is facing a shortage of health care workers. Governor Newsom has called for medical students and medical retirees to join the California Health Corps to expand the number of caregivers in the state while not jeopardizing the quality of that care.
All of the instances above have one thing in common: These elected officials based their actions on the recommendations of scientific experts.
When you need to fix your car, you go to a mechanic. When you’re sick, you go to a doctor. When we’re in a public health crisis, you listen to scientists and public health experts. They did not brush off the opinions of experts, concern themselves with ratings or spew false information in an effort to reassure the public. They recognized the need for true leadership and policy guided by science and expert opinion. Then they got to work.
As we continue to battle the coronavirus, some of my Republican colleagues in Lansing are more concerned about picking a partisan fight than listening to the scientific experts. Their actions encouraging people to protest unsafely in Lansing could extend the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that the White House and Lansing Republicans can follow the bipartisan lead of governors and mayors to craft a national response that focuses on policies based on expert research and data. We can beat COVID-19 and we must act as quickly and fiercely as possible.

About the Author:

Jon Hoadley
State Rep. Jon Hoadley is in his third term as the representative for the 60th House District, which includes Kalamazoo and portions of the city of Portage and Kalamazoo Township. He currently serves as the Democratic vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as well as the Democratic vice chair of the House Fiscal Agency Governing Committee. Find out more about Hoadley online at jonhoadley.com.