I run four times a week. From my house, toward Mercy Hospital, looping through downtown before heading back up First Avenue. I began these runs a month ago when I first began working from home. And everything has changed. At first, it felt like nothing was different — First Avenue busy as ever, clusters of teens standing on sidewalks, neighbors congregating in driveways. And then slowly they cleared. Most runs it’s just me and the skittering trash and occasionally a huddled child on a lawn. When I see someone, we awkwardly try to give each other wide berth, waving, saying our Midwestern slogan: “I’m sorry.” As if apologizing for the global pandemic.
I run by two retirement homes, each tall buildings that in normal times have the look of vinyl sided manor houses. But these aren’t normal times and each time I run by, I imagine every one inside plagued by a ghost — residents are unable to leave. Except it’s not something I’m imagining, it’s our reality. Linn County has 265 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and most of them are linked to outbreaks inside long-term care facilities.
Of course we know the numbers are higher than that, we just don’t have the tests to prove it. Covid-19 is everywhere and that’s the quiet menace of this global nightmare. We know it’s there, we just can’t track it. We know it’s there, but our leaders just won’t take it seriously.
In Monday’s news conference Trump played a propaganda video praising himself. And for month’s he’s been telling outright lies about the pandemic. For example, on March 6, he said anyone who wanted a test could get a test. That’s demonstrably not true given the level of testing kits available. On Monday he said he had power over the governors of the states, which is pretty false due to the actual Constitution.
In March, when NBC’s Peter Alexander asked Trump what he’d stay to people who are scared and worried, the president responded, ““I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.” Trump is more concerned about his image than the deaths of Americans.
Iowa’s own governor has been playing a game of keep away with statistics, data and metrics. She assures us she’s using them we just can’t see them. She has an experienced team of professionals helping her, we just can’t know who they are. They are tracking the cases, they just aren’t collecting demographic information, so we have no idea the racial breakdown of who is being impacted by the virus in our state. Last week, at the daily news conference Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter said Iowa was starting to flatten its cases, weeks before the projected peak is supposed to hit. Yet, on Tuesday, Gov. Reynolds announced that Iowa had it’s highest day for positive cases. While an epidemiological curve can be flattened while cases rise, Reynolds has yet to commit to a predictive model.
In fact, after taking issue with other models for the virus outbreak in the state, Gov. Reynolds is creating her own pandemic model with the University of Iowa. Yet, her team didn’t finalize the contract for a whole month after Iowa had its first cases. An article by the AP shows that the model, isn’t supposed to be shared. Per the contract, the University of Iowa isn’t supposed to publish the data from the study until April 2021. It’s a dizzying cycle of denials. And now, according to Reynolds, her team is working on a model to reopen the state, before we have a model for the outbreak.
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In horror movies the monsters are scarier when you can’t see them, when you don’t know where they are. Once you see the size and width of the thing, it’s easier to handle. But we won’t be able to handle this monster while our leaders refuse to fully see the reality. And so, with a dearth of leaders equipped to handle this pandemic or fully capable of grappling with its realities, we keep waking up to a nightmare.
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