Three countries that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic are Brazil, Russia and America. A key similarity is their three leaders down-played the pandemic. And, Messers. Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump continue their misinformation to this day.
A pandemic expert who participated in a Bush task force on pandemics, said mission one is to tell people the truth. He noted Singapore remained opened, but the leaders told people the truth, told them what they needed to do with social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, testing, and tracing, and because of being truthful, people did what they were asked. Singapore has had a far better handle on this than these three countries.
In an article in The HuffPost called “Brazil is the new epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic” by Travis Waldron, the following quote jumps off the screen, “Bolsonaro’s denial and incompetence have led to a predictable surge in cases.” Brazil has had national two health directors resign in the last two months over differences with the Bolsonaro who has been encouraging gatherings and shaking hands in public. Brazil has roughly 7% of the global COVID-19 cases and deaths.
In Russia, Vladimir Putin has also downplayed not only the virus, but has made sure the numbers are watered down. While publishing 7% of the global COVID-19 cases, the deaths have been published at only 1%. Per a Time article, “Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin admitted on May 7, the real number of infections in the capitol city was at least three times higher than the official figure.” Putin’s folks deny that the number fudging is happening. But, we should never forget how leaders in the predecessor Soviet Union denied the massive problem of the Chernobyl meltdown.
Not to be outdone, the US leads the way. With about 5% of the global population, the US has over 31% of the COVID-19 cases. The US president actually said this was a “badge of honor” due to our testing. Yet, we have not done near enough testing and people getting sick is not a badge of honor. Further, we have 28% of the reported global deaths. From the outset, the president naysayed, downplayed, even said the Democrats were making this into a hoax. The misinformation continues to this day with false bravado, failing to push national interventions on masks and testing, not wearing a mask, promoting cures, citing incorrect data and even stating we should try to ingest disinfectant. But, the key is we missed 6 weeks of planning to prepare ourselves and that failing rests on the shoulders of the person we needed to be presidential.
Fortunately, governors of both political parties have made more fact based decisions based on their states. And, for the most part, the American people have come together to help each other. The governors who have tried to follow the president’s lead, find themselves risking their populations more than they should. And, one that tried to read the president’s mind, found himself criticized by the president when the public reacted negatively. The sad truth is the US president’s mission one is not telling the truth – it never has been on any issue – it is to make himself look good and win the reelection. When someone makes decisions based on errant goals, the problem will continue.
The hard truth is COVID-19 will linger with us for some time and will spike again in cases and deaths. Some of that uptick is occurring now in areas. COVID-19 cares not about geography or party. The president is not incorrect when he says more testing increases the number of detected cases, but that is only part of the story. The more people gather together, the pandemic will rear its ugly head and increase occurrences. We must be smart about how we interact with society and others in the many months ahead. And, we need people in leadership positions to tell the truth.