by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Moderator Jim Burke queried about 43 Current Events participants via Zoom Monday, April 20, on President Donald Trump’s decision to give governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the pandemic, laying out a “phased and deliberate” approach to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.
Governors have already been moving ahead with their own plans for how to safely revive normal activity. Seven Midwestern governors announced last week they will coordinate on reopening their economies. Similar pacts were announced in the West and Northeast.
Current Events participant James Drotleff said governors have “done a wonderful job” handling the crisis, making Trump “irrelevant.” Two other participants suggested Trump could win a second term if the situation improves before the election, unless voters feel too big of a gamble was taken with American lives by resuming activity prematurely.
A Pew Research Center survey released April 17 showed two in three Americans expressed concerns that restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus would be eased too quickly.
Mort Levy, a retired hematologist and oncologist, described where we are going as “Columbus on a dark cloudy night.” There is not enough known about this illness or testing and how to best handle it. “We need to have this time of distancing to discover answers to these questions and centralized evaluation of tests,” he explained.
Jon Gustafson added the shutdown of foreign trade relations could also be a problem for the president. “These relationships are hard to establish,” he said. “Infections may come in waves and mutations of the virus could put us back at square one. We are running out of financial tools and the result is the need for quality leadership in charge of moving forward.”
The same week Trump made the decision to give governors a three-phase plan to reopen the economy, he decided to halt the country’s funding of the World Health Organization while his administration reviews the organization’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The United States is the single largest contributor to the WHO and Trump has been sharply critical of the organization, repeatedly saying it was slow to respond to the crisis. The WHO has opposed travel bans, primarily because of their resulting economic fallout.
While there was concurrence among the Current Events group that the WHO does a lot of good in a lot places, there seemed to be a question of the organization’s leadership and the role of politics. Anne Golden called Trump’s decision part of the “blame game.”
“Trump is a master at diverting attention and took attention away from failure of testing (with this decision),” said Golden.
Stephen Bear pointed out the AIDS crisis in South Africa could have been a lot worse without the WHO. “Trump doesn’t seem to understand if the WHO can’t help in those types of places, it causes problems with the amount of international travel.”
Burke also queried the group on a decision by U.S. District Judge John Broomes to block Kansas from limiting attendance at in-person religious worship services or activities to 10 people or fewer, signaling Broomes believes it’s likely the policy violates religious freedom and free speech rights.
Many of those who responded questioned the ability to enforce such a policy and most believed the government was not limiting religious expression because people have options to safely worship, such as online services.
Mort Levy felt the president should reinforce the importance of social distancing by talking about it more and implore people to do online services. “Moral leadership is needed,” he said.
Current Events will continue to meet virtually at 10 a.m. on Mondays via Zoom.