No trust, no tools
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked people to refrain from traveling. He said that New Yorkers should get through this and celebrate the holiday next year, stressing that vaccines are just around the corner and that people should endure for the time being.
Health experts gave a frightening warning that if you travel for Thanksgiving, you may spend Christmas in an ICU. As Covid-19 cases and deaths are on the rise in winter, authorities are doing their best to prevent Thanksgiving from accelerating the spread.
But many Americans still travel. The parking lot in my apartment complex has been empty for days. In the five days around Thanksgiving, more than six million people used the airports. Considering more people travel by car than by airplane, tens of millions of people are estimated to have traveled to be with their families.
Government warnings and recommendations don’t work anymore. As people are tired of living practically isolated for nine months now, they “learned” how many public figures, including U.S. President Donald Trump, were infected but didn’t suffer fatal consequences.
Politicians who don’t follow rules are most responsible. Trump openly ignored disease control rules and made the White House a new epicenter of infection. Some even say that those who are not infected are not close to the president.
The opposition party is also generous to itself and strict on others. Democrat and California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked residents to refrain from gatherings, but he was invited to a birthday party of a lobbyist and dined at a three Michelin-starred restaurant. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tweeted, “Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners,” yet traveled on a plane to visit family 30 minutes later.
The rules lack logical justification and are not convincing. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked people not to gather in a house for Thanksgiving this year if they don’t live together but still allowed restaurants to operate. That means families cannot gather at home for a meal but can meet at a restaurant if they live apart. Also, New York City keeps bars and gyms open, yet closes schools. Citizens point out that the decision lacks scientific grounds.
Questions arise over whether businesses should be closed or be kept open for the local economy and livelihood of the owners or whether schools should be kept open or stay closed because of the influence of the powerful teachers’ union. When policies are confusing or not transparent, people don’t follow the rules.
The Covid-19 cases in America in December are expected to surpass the cases in spring. It could be the worst yet, but the government has lost trust. It no longer has enough tools to fight the battle against the virus.