Local Leaders to Essential Workers: “You are Expendable”

Corona arises and grows
The virus rises

It was only a few months ago that Donald Trump thought he could ride a strong economy into a second term as President of the United States. Having avoided removal from office during an impeachment that Senator Mitch McConnell nullified before it started, Trump was confident he would cruise into the November election buoyed by a booming stock market and rising employment numbers.

When news came in January that a menacing virus had arrived in the United States from China, Trump assured the American people that, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” 

Just a few months later, following over 150,000* deaths and rising infection rates, the President’s comment was, “It is what it is.” He also continued to push for schools to reopen, college sports to resume, and business as usual.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 has made California’s San Joaquin Valley notorious for its leaders’ inability to slow the spread of the virus. Even so, many of the Valley’s authorities seem intent on following Trump’s example by ignoring infection rates while urging schools to reopen.

Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow has been especially determined to follow Trump’s lead with his push to reopen schools, and now he’s added a willingness to lose state funding in his feckless quest to accept sickness and death as mere costs of doing business. When advised the county could lose $21 million dollars in state assistance if it defies the Governor’s orders to reduce infection rates before opening schools, Withrow responded by saying, “We’re creative. We’ll figure out something else.”

 “Creative?” There’s nothing creative about slavishly following the example of a president whose response to a global pandemic has been denial, magical thinking, and an ever-expanding catalogue of lies. The Coronavirus has killed over one-third as many US citizens in five months as died over the five-year term of World War II. It has killed almost three times the number of Americans as died in the war in Viet Nam.

With few exceptions, the Valley’s political leaders have groped, lurched, and stumbled their way through a fog of their own making, as they’ve ignored science and nearby examples of how to bend the infection curve. Consider San Francisco: Through the week of August 5-12, San Francisco averaged 108 new cases and 0.7 deaths per day. Over the same period, Stanislaus County averaged 319 new cases and 5.3 deaths per day.

San Francisco, with a far larger and denser population, has applied science and bent the curve. Stanislaus County, far more rural and with far fewer people, has followed Trump and endured an accelerating spike in cases and deaths.

It took the most egocentric president in the history of the nation to politicize a lethal virus, but he couldn’t have done it without the help of the local elected leaders nationwide. The President and his slavish followers have taught the American people that many of their “essential workers” aren’t just among the most poorly paid, they’re also expendable. Donald Trump and his enablers have made it clear they’re willing to accept a death toll of wartime proportions as acceptable overhead if it helps stoke the economy enough to keep the president in office.

These aren’t leaders, they’re ghouls.

*Today’s death rate is nearing 170,000

Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. Stop blaming Trump for the virus. Virus is no one’s fault. Unless it was man made. It’s a virus. And most of us want our kids back in school, most of us want our businesses open. We are all adults were fully aware of the consequences but we chose our path. It’s called Freedom!

  2. I am utterly disgusted by our city’s and our county’s blindness and lack of common sense, commitment to science, and their complete abdication of commitment to their sworn oaths to serve their community. From the wreckless and irresponsible personal behavior from the council to the political pandering of our Accountant In Chief, this city and countys numbers of illness and death rests at least partly on the shoulders of our elected representatives. I intend to express my disappointment in each member’s absence of moral courage, not to mention their leadership skills during this pandemic with my money, my feet, and most importantly, my vote. Weddings and brother’s sniffles indeed

  3. It’s not about blaming the virus on Trump it’s about reviewing his waffling response to the virus and the containment and mitigation efforts (or lack thereof) that were deployed. Of course everyone wants for everything to be re-opened again (schools, businesses, commerce, etc.) and if done smartly and socially responsible it can happen sooner than later. Had there been clear and succinct messages about the danger of COVID and our best responses to it we likely could’ve been re-opened by now. In my school-based early childhood education programs (8,400 children across and 8-county service region) that I’ve had re-opened since the end of March, I have case after case of documented COVID cases with students, parents, and staff. And in each case its all traced back to the poor decisions adults are making away from my programs and the results thereof are having severe and grave outcomes. My programs have not had the luxury of closing until it’s safe only quarantining and re-opening. So your concept or notion of freedom appears to be very flawed. Just like we don’t yell fire in a crowded room or yell bomb in an airport, this ‘all-about-me’ thinking ahead of we’re-in-this-together’ is not the freedom I served in the Army for 10 years to protect and uphold. I appreciate your first amendment right, yet I question your thinking about what’s best for our country right now. If you start with ‘we the people, for the people, by the people,’ and that be the frame by which we approach things, the I’s of this country would be so much better off.

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