Dear President Trump,
Friday the 13th came a day early for Robert Redfield, didn’t it? Seriously, did you watch the tape of Katie Porter relentlessly aiming her logical questioning super powers at him yesterday, finally extracting a begrudging “yes” from him that all Americans, regardless of their ability to pay, can be tested and treated for covid-19? And did you see how she pivoted immediately from the pursuit of that “yes” to the real issue of protecting lives by essentially becoming a how-to PSA for following the testing guidelines? It was absolutely fantastic! Little girls and little boys who are home from school indefinitely will surely be spending some of their excessive screen time over the next weeks (or month+ if they live in certain parts of WA state) watching this classic KP heroic episode along with the myriad others she’s been racking up since she hit DC in 2019 with all that brilliance and passion.
Remember how I told you a couple of weeks ago about all the great pictures from Elizabeth Warren’s campaign the WP ran in those days right after she ended her run? Well, I don’t think I told you about the very last image in the series – it was of a little girl, maybe 4 years old, walking away from the camera so that her awesome little super hero cape emblazoned with “EW” was visible in all its glory. Pretty cool. And now I’m finding it inspiring and hopeful to think of this girl being joined by another little girl who’s wearing a “KP” cape and another one wearing an “AP” cape (for Ayanna Pressley) and one wearing a “MW” cape (for Maxine Waters) and another wearing a “NP” cape (should be obvious, but to be clear for you – Nancy Pelosi). The good news is that this list could go on for a very, very long time. The other good news is that these shining examples are being beamed out into the world, signaling that try as you might with all your might, new ways are being championed by new people and they are fundamentally changing the conversation.
Sadly, there’s also tons of bad news. First, it’s not exactly a big promise that no one will have to pay for covid-19 testing and treatment if no one can get tested. Not only have you and your administration bungled this and every other aspect of the immediate response, but you all also have so gutted the public health preparedness infrastructure that there’s virtually nothing solid to build a testing program with or on. Although some jurisdictions have gotten it together to do drive-up testing, I’m hearing of horrible “hot-potato” situations where even people with high risk conditions are being shuttled from one clinic to another to hospital to clinic because no one wants to test them and assume responsibility if there’s a positive covid-19 screen.
So second, even if there were enough tests for everyone who needs and wants one, much of the healthcare system is so fragmented and liability focused that it’s not at all clear they will be able to pull it together to be effective without super smart, clear, strong (as in “thou shalt”) guidance from the federal government. And it’s sadly very clear that we’ll be waiting for hell to freeze over on that last one.
Third, an angle that occurred to me last night as I was trying to fall asleep, is that even if some public health fairy god mother were to wave her magic wand and make testing really, truly available in a compassionate, coherent, and integrated fashion (i.e., we do need to know how many people are tested and what the results are), just because I test negative on Friday, doesn’t mean I won’t catch it next Wednesday. In other words, what about the need for repeat testing as this thing drags on? We can’t even get people tested once, but to be effective, we are going to need to be able to test some people multiple times – it’s not as though a negative test seals us in an armored bubble and we become impervious to the virus from then on. Have you all even thought about this contingency? Maybe talked about? What about factoring it in – done anything crazy like that? Well, don’t worry, no one is expecting you too. We’ve given up on your ass.
May we be safe from greedy, incompetent sociopaths with way too much power.
May we be willing to take it upon ourselves to take care.
May we do what we need so our communities come through strong and healthy.
May we accept reality and do what we need to do in response to it.