The scores are in: America failed the virus test | Moran – NJ.com

Posted: May 28, 2020 at 7:46 am


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As we march past the grim marker of 100,000 dead, there is no escaping the conclusion that America has lost its balance, that the days when the world relied on the United States to lead the way are gone, at least for now.

We are 5 percent of the worlds population. We have 29 percent of the deaths. We had more warning than most countries, we lead the world in medical research, and we have seen that Americans are willing to make dramatic personal changes to help in the fight. And still, our government has been unable to put the pieces together and marshal a competent response.

Americans are still dying at the pace of about 1,000 a day. And even now, as we begin to reopen, we dont have a system in place to detect new outbreaks and quarantine those who are infected. This virus is not done with us, and experts warn of a second surge coming this fall. As we mark 100,000 dead, the question is whether we can avoid marking 200,000 before its over.

In Paterson, Mayor Andre Sayegh is showing what effective local leadership looks like, but its still not enough to protect the city against the predicted second surge. When a Paterson resident falls ill, a contact tracer reaches out to every person who came in contact with the patient within the last two weeks. They are asked to quarantine themselves, but many people in Paterson are packed into small apartments and cant do that.

We dont have the resources for that, Sayegh says. We had a case in a family of 12, and all of them got infected because of that.

No ones talking much about the unsexy stuff that would save lives, and allow us to open up sooner, like contact tracing and quarantine shelters. That stuff is not sexy and does nothing to rile the partisan passions.

No, the hot debate focuses on the pace of reopening, as the economic catastrophe deepens. A gym owner opened, defying the law. Republicans and churches have filed lawsuits. Sen. Declan OScanlon, R-Monmouth, has advocated civil disobedience against restrictions imposed by Murphy.

Im getting calls from mayors who say, Were being ordered to use our police against our businesses and people who are simply trying to survive, and its killing me. Im being asked to turn on the people I promised to serve and crush their businesses, OScanlon says.

But if Murphy yields to political pressure, and opens too fast, the risk of a second surge increases. That would force a second shutdown, delaying the day when the economy can return to health.

Its depressing to see the partisan divide deepen. Republicans are more likely to think the restrictions are too tight, and much more likely to approve of President Trumps performance. On Lake Hopatcong last weekend, where Trump flags were in abundance, several boats were tied together to party, virus or not. Trump himself, of course, signals defiance every day by refusing to wear a mask.

In Washington, leading Republican are dead-set against extending the $600 weekly bonus for the millions who have lost jobs. Over my dead body, says Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, suddenly concerned about the deficit. Republicans are opposing more direct help to state governments like ours as well, dismissing as a that lifeline as a blue-state bailout in the words of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader.

Here in New Jersey, Doug Steinhardt, the Republican state chairman, went nuclear last week by calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor over the catastrophe at New Jerseys nursing homes, as if Murphy has committed a crime. Whether its a 9-11 type of review, or a potential criminal review, we need to get to the bottom of it, he said.

I asked what crime he was suggesting Murphy might have committed. I meant to suggest what I said, he responded. Hmmm. A little taste of the dialogue in Washington.

If this becomes a badge of your partisan affiliation, were in trouble, says Farmer. To me, thats the most regrettable part of this whole thing. Its emblematic of where we are.

America is an exceptional country. With an exceptionally ineffective federal government. At least for now.

More: Tom Moran columns

Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

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The scores are in: America failed the virus test | Moran - NJ.com

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:46 am