Welcome to Sunday Morning Coffee a look at some of the political/social news stories you may have seen or, perhaps, missed all laced with my commentary. It's what I get to do before the sun comes up. As always you are welcome to contribute your thoughts and reactions and if you wish, feel free to share with others. Let's get started:
The Failure of Leadership
For weeks the President of the United States and his minions in conservative media have downplayed the danger of the coronavirus. They, and he, have called it a hoax, compared it to the flu, said it would simply disappear as if by magic, blamed the media, President Obama and Democrats. But on Wednesday, during his often flawed Oval Office speech to the nation, he finally told the nation in somber, if not halting tones, that this is a serious pandemic and you need to take action.
You would think that Republicans, who on social media, are still calling all of this an attempt to take down this president might have listened. However that does not seem to be the case. This divided nation can not even agree on hand washing.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted March 2-3, 21 percent of Democrats (compared to 14 percent of Republicans) said they were taking steps to avoid physical contact with others. Forty-eight percent of Democratic respondents said they were washing their hands more often to prevent transmission of the virus, compared to 38 percent of Republicans. And the fact is that Republicans have been watching a different story unfold on right-wing media than the rest of the country is seeing.
Iowa Is Not An Island
Here is the stark, stunning reality: The COVID19 is here however we have no idea how many people are infected and we have no testing available. Last week I started calling various health departments across the state and while this is not a scientific study I can tell you we are woefully prepared. Some counties have five or six testing kits others had no idea.
The governor has, at least, been keeping the public informed from her location "north of Des Moines". Overnight we learned that a person in Dallas County contracted the virus by "community spread" and another person in Johnson County has been admitted to the University of Iowa Hospitals in "critical condition". That person had been in self-imposed isolation.
Meanwhile, if you remember, the Iowa State Legislature is in the control of the same Republicans who have been denying the seriousness of the virus. Last week Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) called on the legislative leadership to postpone the general session. Republicans denied the request and it is "business as usual".
If you have not been to the gathering under "The Golden Dome" let me share with you that it is a perfect place for community spread of the virus. There are hushed whispers, lots of handshakes and hundreds of people wandering the halls. This is insanity.
Last week Dr. Tom Ahart the Superintendent of Schools said in a press conference that the Des Moines Public Schools would remain closed after spring break and until 30 March in an "abundance of caution". I know Dr. Ahart and his family. I know that this was not an easy call. I get it that parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles are now faced with extended care for kids unless they can work remotely. But it was the right call.
Meanwhile the arrogance of the suburban schools to not extend spring break was shocking. We have an 11 year-old in the West Des Moines Schools and while children are not as much at risk (or so we are told) than adults the fact that hundreds of children will be attending classes in these petri dishes of potential community spread is misguided and arrogant.
We are learning that a person can be asymptomatic of the virus and still be contagious. There are no words...
That is why, yesterday, Apple announced that it was closing all of their retail stores in the United States. The company said they had learned a valuable lesson from their experience in China and that lesson was "to flatten the infection rate curve we must avoid contact". That is pretty stark and clearly they get it while others have not received the memo.
An Abundance of Caution
That is the line we've seen over and over from people who are taking this health crisis seriously. Some of you know that I am running for the Iowa State Senate. On Thursday afternoon I received a note from Jacob Becklund who is the Director of the Iowa Majority Fund for the Iowa Democratic Party. Here is that communication:
As the world and Iowa deal with COVID-19, we recommend you adapt your campaign to protect your health and the health of others. Obviously we hope things return to normal as soon as possible, but until then, please see our current recommendations:1) We recommend postponing all public events (IE town halls, fundraisers, etc.) until further notice.2) We recommend moving fundraising away from large scale in-person events to fundraising by phone, email, and letters.3) We recommend shifting voter contact efforts to phones. In other words, we suggest you avoid canvassing under the current circumstances.
Notice the third recommendation. Canvassing or going door-to-door is what we do. Even that, forget large gatherings, made the list. Spreading fear? No, it is what we do in our own way to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens. Perhaps others will take note. And, BTW here is a link to my campaign webpage and if you are so moved a link to my fundraising page.
I know, not a lot of fun stuff here. I get it. I understand that child-care centers are struggling. I get it that our nursing homes and rehab centers are struggling keeping people safe and healthy. Friends, this is not a joke and it is no time to have a cavalier attitude.
Many of you know that I do Insight on Business the News Hour a daily business newscast, which will air today on News/Talk 1540 KXEL at 2PM. Last week I made the decision to cancel meeting with my guests to record their interviews and will be doing those by phone. (I have several already done and you may hear those next week.) That is not the preferred method because, as journalists know, when you have a guest sitting in front of you the interview is much more impactful. But, it is out of an abundance of caution for me and my family and my guests.
Also there is opportunity here. There is the opportunity to slow down a bit and enjoy reconnecting with family. Taking the time to be together without the distraction of "other things" and a vast calendar of "stuff to do".
Finally, this health crisis also allows me to finally sent down some policy regarding healthcare and what our state should be doing. I have already been reaching out to healthcare professionals who I hope will be candid and be willing to talk about issues that we have, for too long, swept under the rug.
Stay safe and well. And, as usual thanks for reading.