Our system of government is remarkably durable. I’m reading about the War of 1812 and it’s remarkable that the people of the United States were able to cobble together a power-sharing system between the states and federal government that continues to this day. In 1812, this theory of government was almost written off.
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a new, modern challenge to our system. The federal government has pursued a strategy of deferring to the states. They’ve collated data, passed information, and worked with private industry to plug gaps and speed up research. A declaration of national emergency has given additional relief. Watch any press conference with Drs. Debrah Birx or Anthony Fauci, and you get a sense that there is a serious, evidence-based approach on the scientific front.
Whereas in previous public health emergencies, the United States deployed resources abroad on humanitarian missions, today we’re having to deploy those resources internally. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States Navy’s two hospital ships are preparing for deployment on the East and West Coast. I went to Walmart today and entire grocery sections were empty. It looked more like a picture of a Venezuelan market than a Walmart store in the United States.
When we get some space from this outbreak, we’ll be able to evaluate which national policies were successful and which were not. What I think has been most effective is the individual response from Americans. We haven’t waited to be ordered to distance ourselves socially, many of us have just done it. We haven’t waited to be ordered to close our Churches, we’ve done it out of an act of charity for our neighbor and our country.
This self-determination is in the DNA of American society. Italians have been less serious in their response, and as a result are having their liberties curtailed as a matter of law. The Italian government first requested its citizens self-isolate, but it was ignored. What followed was a national quarantine enforced by the police. Still ineffective, the government has now really turned up the heat with further, more restrictive measures that are hard to believe are being implemented by a democratic Western nation.
We will not stop Covid-19 this season. Our national effort is to slow the spread and avoid unnecessary loss of life. There will be a time and place to critique our government’s response and decide what changes in law and regulation are required so that we’ll be better prepared for next time. For now, let’s all do our part out of a sense of duty to one another, rather than under the force of law.