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Friday, January 1, 2021

Of Course, This Is How 2020 Ended

Just 3 weeks ago, we were told the new COVID vaccines were on their way. We’re still waiting.

By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

The last day of a very horrible 2020 perfectly encapsulates the year’s frustrations.

Donald Trump tweeted early yesterday on the reality that his crowning achievement of the year, getting vaccine research moving quickly, is bogged down hopelessly:

“The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!”

And there it is in 120 characters:

Love me for what I’ve done and shut your mouth about any criticism. Look away from 325,000 American COVID-19 deaths, including Republican Luke Letlow, 41, a Congressman-elect from Louisiana. Forget that many deaths could have been avoided by with a strong position on normal public health measures. And if anything is wrong here, it’s not my fault. I take no responsibility for the results.

Pure Trump. Pure 2020. Pure personal politics over all else. Pure BS.

Despite repeated promises for rapid deployment with pressured emergency approvals from the Federal Drug Administration, and with two vaccines being distributed with at least two more in the pipeline, we find ourselves at the literal end of the year with only 2 million inoculations rather than 20 million.

We are ending 2020 as we have lived the last four years. Dear Leader is preening himself, insisting Washington and the nation heed his every requirement for adoration and re-election despite losing and spending his days golfing and ignoring the realities the coronavirus is wreaking.

We can agree that there is Zero Percent efficacy for vaccines that never make it to the arms of Americans.

Logistical Issues

States are finding that getting the earliest vaccines into arms is proving to be the predicted logistical challenge.

There are delays due to some allergic reactions, complications from having omitted pregnant patients from clinical trials and red tape as nursing homes only now start the tedious job of collecting vaccine approval paperwork from family members. There are issues about refrigeration, as expected, and there have been various administrative screw-ups.

It’ll get resolved in time, of course, just not immediately.

But rather than own the issue on behalf of anxious Americans, Trump is disowning any responsibility for getting the job done. We have Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, vacationing on the ski slopes of Colorado. We have babble from the mouths of federal health agency heads.

We have calls for immediate patience from governors trying simultaneously:

  • to stop additional surges of coronavirus
  • to watch the airports for flights from the UK and elsewhere where new strains are reported
  • to find retirees and other volunteers to work at inoculation sites still located in the very hospitals that are overwhelmed with surges of new patients because too many Americans decided to party rather than isolate during holidays

And we have righteous anger from President-elect Joe Biden over the slow start to inoculations and the withholding of appropriate information about how it is all supposed to be working.

What we don’t have is enough of a jump on stopping this virus.

Everywhere but Mar-a-Lago

The nightly news country-wide reflects overfilled hospital wards. The number of infected has reached nearly 20 million, with deaths accelerating. The government’s great hope: Vaccines. Otherwise, there is talk of military precision, but no plan.

Instead, there is government dissension every time health official Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimates move a little more about how we finally get to needed levels of immunity. There is Trump continuing to say schools, businesses and the economy should be open fully and stoking political resistance to state orders for quarantines, masks and social distancing.

Trump talks bigger individual stimulus payments without getting Republican senators to go along. There is no linkage of the payments in return for temporary shutdowns of regions hard hit.

Indeed, Trump and Republicans agree that a little money should go to states to pay for the distribution of vaccines or for hardening schools and businesses from contagion.

For Trump, the credit should go to him, the work should go to the states.

Biden is offering us grim assessments about more death and troubles before vaccines can get to where they are needed. He says this is “the greatest operations challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation.”

As far as we can tell, by the end of this week, the government insists that about 14 million doses will have been distributed to states, although there’s been a lot of apologizing about whether those totals match what was promised by end of December. There is no real explanation of why that has resulted in 2 million inoculations by 50 states or hundreds of distribution points.

Instead, there’s a whole lot of scrambling under way to prove that we’ve equally focused effort on manufacturing and drug store distribution partners, further vaccine approvals and respect for local decision-making about who gets the available vaccines.

There’s not a lot of government talk about what hasn’t gotten done. In other words, it feels as if it is a replay of start-stop coordination of testing and any of the broader plans to stop the disease.

Is it too much to ask for people – Trump included – to do their jobs completely?