Article originally published by the Philadelphia Business Journal on September 20, 2021.
Covid-19 has had a major disruptive impact on our society. To date, over 660,000 Americans have lost their lives to coronavirus, many while on ventilators in overcrowded hospital ICUs struggling to breathe. Some hospitals are again suspending non-urgent surgeries due to being swamped with unvaccinated Covid patients. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals account for 94% of the Covid cases and 97% of the Covid deaths in Pennsylvania this year.
The number of deaths due to Covid-19 has surpassed the 651,031 combat deaths suffered in all of America’s wars combined, from 1775 through 1991. There are also some who have suffered longer-term health effects from the disease. We are at war with Covid-19.
As of this writing, only 55% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 64% have received one dose.
Many individuals in our country have refused to acknowledge this war or the facts on how to halt the pandemic. Covid cases are growing again due to low vaccination rates and resistance to wearing masks, especially in certain parts of the country. Anti-vaxxers and maskers frame the issue as one of freedom and their individual right to refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks to protect themselves and others. However, with individual rights come responsibility to their fellow Americans. Our country was built on this responsibility.
In areas where vaccination rates and mask usage are low, some schools are temporarily closing due to coronavirus infections of students and staff. This is not the case where vaccination rates are high. A Sept. 10 NPR article is headlined, “San Francisco schools have had no Covid-19 outbreaks since classes began last month.” The article reports that over 90% of San Francisco school students have been vaccinated.
Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida have sued the school districts that have ignored their anti-mask mandates. On Aug. 16, I wrote an article headlined, “With lives at stake, it’s time for Govs. Abbott and DeSantis to forget politics and lead.” I wish that both governors would recognize that we are fighting a war against Covid-19. Both governors need to recognize that as leaders of their states, their primary responsibility is to keep their constituents safe. They are failing in this responsibility.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson recognized the facts and admitted he regrets signing a bill that prohibited mask mandates. In an Aug. 8 interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Hutchinson said, “Facts change, and leaders have to adjust to the new facts and reality of what you have to deal with. When I signed that bill, [Covid-19] cases were low, but it roared back with the new Delta variant. … It was an error to sign that law, I admit that.”
To stem the pandemic, on Sept. 9 President Joe Biden announced that he would mandate federal employees and employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated. He also mandated that employees of private sector companies with more than 100 employees be vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus testing. This would have not occurred if the country was further along in vaccination rates.
Lawsuits have been filed against Biden’s vaccine mandate. Many companies fear losing a portion of their employees if vaccinations are forced on them. Some companies say they do not have the personnel to manage compliance with the mandate.
In an August 2020 Time article, Alex Fitzpatrick wrote about his reasons for why our country is so fragmented in this war against Covid-19: “A failure of political leadership at all levels, a distrust of scientists, the media and expertise in general, and deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about individuality. …” Some people say they distrust scientists because they occasionally change their guidance about how to fight this pandemic. They don’t understand that as facts change, guidance changes. That’s how it works.
To Fitzpatrick’s list I would add the prevalence of social media, which makes it much easier for political opportunists to communicate conspiracy theories and falsehoods about vaccinations and masking from sources that are not credible. This dangerously undermines trust in our country’s institutions. I would also add the propensity of some to believe falsehoods from those who hold similar beliefs, rather than facts from those who hold dissimilar beliefs.
We recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a horrible event that united our country. It is to our detriment that we are not united in this war against Covid-19. Had we been united on facts from the start of the pandemic, far fewer deaths and much less damage to our economy would have occurred. Hopefully, we will someday be united again – if not on issues, at least on the facts.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.