Coronavirus, Reopening Virginia, and Politics

Here in Virginia the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted an uncomfortable hypocrisy within the GOP.

We’ve endured death in my family from Covid-19. I don’t wish that for anyone — the heartache of a dying parent alone in the hospital with no loved ones around, no grieving with family and friends, no closure.

We are in the midst of a public health crisis that should not be political. However, it has certainly turned out that way. (See Covid-19: A Virus Isn’t Political and Lynchburg area legislators join Amherst crowd in urging Virginia to reopen.)

Barely two months in, there is a steady stream of criticism from the right side of the aisle about our Democratic governor’s handling of this once-in-a-lifetime worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Those who watch Governor Northam’s regular press conferences have been exposed to the constant stream of rude and sometimes vitriolic comments that scroll up the screen as he and his team give pandemic updates.

And, yet, I’ve heard not one peep of negativism from those same critics about the Republican president’s handling of this pandemic.

The reason I find this odd is because President Trump set out the rules for states to follow while working to safely reopen. Here is one benchmark, for example: “Downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.” 

As of this morning, Virginia’s Covid-19 numbers are still going up. Keep in mind that the peak was predicted for the end of May, and we’re not there yet. Most states, if not all, have not met the minimum requirements but are reopening anyway under pressure from Trump and many Republicans. In some states, not only have Covid-19 cases not declined, but some that had leveled off are beginning to once again rise. Everyone wants to get back to work … but we need to safely do so.

Still, however, the naysayers fault Northam. We have the benefit of the only physician governor in the nation which gives Virginians the benefit of a “sober voice of authority cautioning that daily life will probably be disrupted for months,” as noted by this NBC-4 article. It added that Northam has “relied heavily on his medical training and a fact-based approach in making those decisions, and … tries to treat the public as he would a patient.”

But not fault the Republican president? Trump tweeted on April 17, “LIBERATE Virginia.” That message led to the horn-blaring “reopen Virginia” parade of vehicles driving around downtown Richmond’s Capital Square to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the governor’s request for citizens to stay home to help prevent runaway infections of the virus.

The conflicting signals from all levels of Republican leadership during this pandemic have been confusing at best and lethal at worst.

Governor Northam’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been an effort to prevent as many deaths as possible. As a result, he has received a thumbs up from the majority of Virginians with 78 percent approval in yesterday’s Washington Post poll that confirmed last month’s 76 percent approval in the VCU poll.

With medical experts warning that we have a long journey ahead, and as scientists race to find a Covid-19 vaccine, it would be nice to think that we could all be more patient and less critical as everyone works their way through something no one has experienced in their lifetimes.

Be safe, and be well.

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