Thank heavens, tattoo parlours will reopen in a week throughout Georgia. If you’re trying to decide between “Fire Fauci” and “Lock him (her) up,” we’ll leave it up to your good judgment. Your wife can stop in to the nail salon and hair dresser. Even if you’re driving in from New York, you’ll enjoy the trip. So many spring flowers and traffic will be lighter than usual.
Ahh, you detect some sarcasm? Listen, they’re reopening businesses; and restaurants in South Korea and Taiwan. It’s time. The governor knows what he’s doing. Just tonight President Trump said so about Brian Kemp, his fellow real estate developer. “He’s a very capable man He knows what he’s doing. He’s done a very good job as governor of Georgia,” Trump said.
So if anyone can figure how to do social distancing in the tattoo parlour, the nail salon and hairdresser, it will be Governor Kemp, right?
Corona Virus Task Force member Deborah Birx, who earned her spurs fighting AIDS around the world, was asked about Georgia’s reopening plan in the evening briefing. “If there’s a way that people can social distance and do those things then they can do those things – I don’t know how – but people are very creative so I’m not going to prejudge.”
She didn’t’ get the title of “ambassador” in the roosting place for diplomats, the State Department, by using more direct language, and multiply that by 10 when she’s standing on the dais next to a president who’s made it very clear he is not going to criticise anyone who wants to reopen the economy, either in statehouses or on protest lines.
So when she says, “I don’t know how,” that in context is a pretty strong hint that there is no way on God’s green earth that you can socially distance at a tattoo parlour, nail salon or hair dresser.
Now backing up a bit, this can’t be a story about just one governor, who didn’t even consult his own task force before announcing his kind of reopening. Nor can it be about a president’s astute calculation he better keep his mouth shut and not even think about publicly criticising flag waving, MAGA-hat wearing folks who are, after all, taking their cue from him.
A lot of states are preparing some degree of reopening within a few days or weeks of the end of the month. Millions of people will be arguing around the kitchen table whether to relax their isolation, if not this week, maybe next week or next month or even the month after – because the virus will still be out there somewhere, waiting.
To veer away to some degree from the standard-issue “stupid president, stupid governor” template, let’s look at what the president has done right, even though a lot he has said about what he’s doing has been wrong. No, after all this time, the country still doesn’t have all those swabs and reagents and little vials full of virus transport medium, and a clear distribution of several brands of test processing machines matched up with all of those ingredients, but it will have all that soon. There are enough companies, either ordered or pressured or voluntarily conscripted into the manufacturing effort to soon bury the country in swabs and all the other medical gear. Better late than – actually it’s not better, but importantly, it’s almost here. By May 1? Probably not. And those other reopening requirements, like that army of contact tracers that have made the difference for South Korea and Taiwan? Maybe by June 1 or July 1.
So the reopening efforts of many states will not be in perfect sync with the testing regime at first. Many states will choose not to appreciably reopen, and millions of people will think twice about sacrificing grandpa on the altar of cabin fever regardless what governors recommend or impose.
Gradually, in a fragmented way, with setbacks and more debate the nation will struggle to accomplish a socially-distanced reopening of a lot of commerce, some entertainment and here and there, maybe a tattoo parlour will sneak through. The virus death toll will not be as low as it could be under perfect conditions. Hopefully it won’t surge into a strong second wave.
Meanwhile, although it’s often hard to determine through the noise, President Trump does seem to act on the advice of his medical advisors. At least after they hit him with that worst-case death toll projection of 2.2 million.
He placed a vice president with the organizational skills of a former governor and a non-confrontational manner in charge of getting FEMA, the Public Health Service, the CDC, the NIH, the Army and a whole lot of governors to a large degree on the same page. Their efforts finally seem to have some coordination, some momentum.
So what do you do, rather than what you say, when a rogue governor or two pops up and threatens the entire carefully wrought reopening plan by needlessly infecting a whole lot of new victims? Granted, the needless victims won’t be blameless as they make their fateful choices. They can’t stand forever this self-isolation, the instant poverty in so many cases, the loss of so much. “I’m scheduled to speak to the governor of Georgia a little while,” Trump said. That’s what you do.
Will Dr. Birx and the NIH’s Tony Fauci and the admiral in charge of testing and a lot more, Brett Giroir, share with Trump their opinion about Georgia’s reopening plan? Might the president listen? Might he suggest to Governor Kemp that his people are wondering about adherence to the Phase 1 guidelines? Will the governor listen?
Will the next two or five or 10 governors listen? Will President Trump figure it’s in his own best interest to stick to his own program while declaring he’s on the side of – maybe the protestors, maybe the governors, maybe the Fox News anchor?
“We have told people very clearly in the president’s guidelines, made it very clear about the expectations of Phase 1,” Dr. Birx said in the latest briefing. “And remember Phase 1 also included social distancing in restaurants, social distancing in every place that was entertainment, and keeping your own individual social groups to less than 10.”
In fact the president’s guidelines for Phase 2 and Phase 3 also insist on social distancing. Besides, a state is not supposed to enter even Phase 1 until it’s had a declining trend of new infections for two weeks – which Georgia hasn’t.
Was she talking to the reporters? Or to someone standing next to her? In some countries with different types of government this is easy. In some, like Brazil, it’s impossible. Here it’s a work in progress.