In an unpublished report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the officials recommend that at least the 18 hardest-hit states, such as California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas, should be putting into place tougher measures, like mask mandates, and increasing testing. The report was dated from Tuesday and was first publicized by the Center for Public Integrity. The issue isn’t a new one though, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been encouraging Americans to wear masks for the past few months.
With the number of COVID-19 cases rises, some are following this advice. More and more new mask requirements have been put into effect in the past few days. In some cases, it’s communities, yet in others, it’s entire states with some of them including those led by Republican governors who’ve been resistant to mask mandates in the past. However, it’s not just the government imposing the restrictions, but many stores, such as Walmart, Target, CVS, Home Depot and Lowes, have all implemented rules stating that if you’re going to visit their establishments, then you must wear a mask.
Despite the recent increase in support, some leaders are still against mask wearing. One of these is the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp (R), who made an announcement earlier this week that any local ordinances requiring masks were unenforceable and were suspended. In addition, he filed a lawsuit against the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), since she imposed a mask requirement on the city and he said it was in violation of his direct orders. The lawsuit doesn’t address other cities across Georgia, such as Savannah, that had imposed such a restriction several days prior to the one in Atlanta.
Even though the number of cases is on the rise, the reported numbers are several days behind the actual spread of the virus. Unfortunately, this increase means that there’s a surge in those seeking testing as well. The uptick in tests means shortages of supplies, which limits the number of people tested. This has prompted some areas to scale back from testing everybody to those that are high risk. In addition, people are having to wait over a week and, in some instances, several weeks to get the results due to the backlog at laboratories. What it boils down to is that some individuals are going to spread the virus because they’re going about their daily lives while they wait for a result, weren’t able to get tested or haven’t yet been told that they have been exposed to an infected person.
The delay is very concerning to public health officials since testing already lags behind the virus because it can take up to two weeks for a person to develop symptoms (during which time they start spreading the virus) and it’s not until some starts experiencing symptoms that they usually decide to get tested. This means that, in a best-case scenario, scientists are already behind two weeks, which is challenging enough for contact tracing because people have a hard time remembering everyone that they’ve come into contact with during that time. The further out you get from that creates a much broader challenge to contact trace. This is why public health officials recommend that if you have any symptoms, get tested, but stay home and distance yourself as much as possible from those you live with until you get the results.
Some experts say that the lack of a unified nationwide leadership response involving better contact tracing and isolation of infected individuals and relaying a message that was consistent and motivated the public to work together to combat the virus means that we, as a country, have missed many opportunities to control the virus. Instead of using the time of the shutdown wisely, we’re facing the consequences of governmental inaction, like huge economic sacrifices and the world’s worst death toll. This Administration has tried to downplay the scale of the pandemic at every turn, even as it grows steadily worse. By not using the access it has to almost unlimited financial resources and the most advanced scientific and technical knowledge in the world, the federal government is not only hindering any progress being made toward defeating the virus but in some ways causing the country to go backward. In addition, officials high up in the government are stating false information about the virus and the government’s response.
We have nothing positive to show for the passage of time during the shutdown. We didn’t develop a national plan that all the states could homogenously follow, which would allow those states with less impact from the virus to assist those that have more. We don’t have a true idea of the spread of the virus due to a lack of testing and inconsistent reporting measures. We don’t have a strategy on how to reopen schools with the start date just weeks away in some areas.
Instead, we have citizens that are in a more difficult position financially than they were at the beginning of the year. We have vulnerable individuals having to make the choice between staying physically safe and providing for themselves and their families. We have people dying by the thousands every day. All of this is happening with no change to the process insight. The government should do a better job of serving the American people…we deserve better.