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OPINION | Epitaph 102: Lessons on government’s response to Covid-19

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IF WE have learned anything from this pandemic it is the fact that “socialist ideologies” offer the best countermeasures and solutions to dealing with Covid-19 even though no one is really talking about this all-important fact.

I’m not one who doesn’t practice what I preach and I think it is important that ALL of us LEARN from the lessons this virus has taught us and is still teaching because if we don’t learn these lessons taught by history we are literally doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Being a retired educator, I am concerned with what we have or should have already learned so it won’t happen again. I have mentioned on more than one occasion about how our “island environment is actually a perfect test-tube for many social and economic phenomena” because we can literally “control what comes in and what goes out.” I have also written about the “slow reaction time” that has become a common trait of our GOP government. I just pray someone is writing down our “future Pandemic-Protocols for dealing with viruses” so we don’t have to be retaught something we should have already LEARNED, which would be AUTOMATIC with a permanent Team that will have a real “Play-Book” for all the emergencies and catastrophe scenarios — “be PREPARED” the Boy Scouts’ Motto!


Leadership & “Desperate Times call-for Desperate Measures,” FDR Democrat
At the top of the lists in things we have learned is to DEMAND better Leadership: The accountability for locking down America and the CNMI by air was first placed on the Federal Aviation Authority but in reality, the Governor has full authority to lockdown the CNMI whenever there is imminent danger to the People and our environment. Saying the Feds didn’t want to cancel flights was an easy cop-out that placed the responsibility & accountability of the Leadership at the Federal Level (#45-Trump) which was flawed and even none existent for the first 45 days of the virus being made known in China — saying it will just go away. Figuratively, Governors and American Society were all thrown a curve ball by our leader #45 making everyone on the team miss hitting the virus (out-of-the-park) through the small window of opportunity that came and went within DAYS!

The Governor really didn’t need the FAA to cancel flights because he had the power to “quarantine every flight and passengers once they landed in the CNMI” which is what he is doing now when it’s really too late. Airlines nor passengers would want their planes sitting on the runway and can’t off-load the passengers. Given United canceled their flight from a simple Governor’s request is proof that our boarders could have been shut down as early as late Jan. or early Feb. long before those who have tested positive arrived in March. The CNMI had a real chance to get ahead of the curve but let that window of opportunity close which is the lesson we should have learned the next time there is a threat of a “global pandemic.” Governors in other states are even scrambling with these desperate times now to institute their own desperate measures of “self-distancing and shelter-in-place” with a few foolish GOP Governors yet to implement these desperate measures.

The delayed reaction to the virus in America can be directly placed on #45 at the top of our leadership which is WHY leadership is the first lesson we should have learned and why I am continuing to call for a permanent Emergency Management Team. We must make sure WE the People will always have good, responsible and accountable leadership in the future when there is an emergency like a typhoon and the pandemic challenge we now face. The CNMI leaders need to KNOW and have learned that WE must be more responsible for our own fate and take the necessary proper and fitting desperate measures to address desperate times. Had the Governor quarantined all inbound passengers earlier the CNMI might not have any cases because the airlines would have voluntarily stop flights. So don’t wait on the Feds in the future to shut down the CNMI ourselves when there are desperate times that need desperate measures which is the main lesson for leadership LEARNED.

Sharing Contact Tracing Info
Contact Tracing Info is being held confidential when it needs to be publicly shared information as “the privacy of the infected is far outweighed by the need to KNOW in the community” in-order to contain and stop the transmission of the virus. On the mainland it would be more about “sharing location hotspots associated with the virus due to the enormous population. However, in our small and closely knitted community sharing names of people with the virus works to our advantage as not knowing WHO was infected is scary and even causing hysteria out of FEAR. In our community when the people know who was infected the People can actually assist in the “contact tracing” because if there is one thing our community is good at it is “TRACING family relations for connections” that is really an attribute of our society that can be beneficial for contact tracing measures if the information is shared. We can’t overlook that at the core of our fight against this virus is “our dependency upon SHARING information, especially contact data-tracing.”

I know that sharing a person medical condition is protected by Federal Law but these are desperate times that truly call for desperate measures because this is about EVERYONE possibly having the SAME medical condition — secrecy is really our biggest enemy. This scenario also reminds me of how many people think the law is perfect when in reality mankind has failed to realize that “WE are not perfect and that We cannot make perfect laws as this scenario with this virus is just more PROOF of the old phenomena of something that is “MAN-MADE” being an “exception-to-the-rule (of law). This virus is a genuine and life-threatening public menace to our entire society and we can’t allow the law to hide the virus’ where-abouts — for TRUE! Sharing contact info is not too much to ask even though it is actually another act of socialism that takes away privacy rights because the welfare of ALL is at stake. Unlike most illnesses this virus is nothing to be ashamed of and one should even WANT to share their infection to save lives. If we knew everyone was following the proper “social distancing & decontamination procedures” there wouldn’t be a need to share contact info but in America everyone does not follow directions like in Socialist Countries — another reason to embrace some socialistic approaches.

Asking the community to help with contact tracing can really give our officials an extra source of help and even give people something to do in the confines of their home over social media. We are actually HELPING the virus to remain a secret killer by keeping secret the people who have been infected. Unlike the major cities of the U.S. where sharing contact information may not amount to that much due to the massive size of the population. However, the CNMI is a small community where virtually everyone knows everyone directly and/or indirectly. The sharing of a person’s infection is a desperate measure that we need to take for these kinds of desperate time in the future and a lesson that we should have learned from this virus. It would also be helpful if the Governor and the newspapers would post on the websites a daily reconciliation CHART of 1. # of infected 2. # of deaths 3. # being tested and the locations of Covid-19 Hot-spots in the CNMI. Providing a daily picture can help to officially educate the public with a simple picture — a picture is worth a thousand words. I can tell you as a retired educator that people learn differently as some are verbal/written learners and some are visual/pictures & graphs and flowchart/story learners.

Economic Containment & Control Measures

The adverse effects on society are numerous to say the least the prevailing need for “debt relief” is all aspects of our economy. If a home or apartment was destroyed by a typhoon the landlord wouldn’t have any right to ask for rent but when the person who pays the rent is jobless because of the virus they are still forced to pay rent. But rent control and price controls are just two of the many economic factors that need to be contained and controlled in these kinds of situation to address the containment and control of our entire economy. This is just one example of the need for a Governor’s Directive to contain and control with “freeze-rent” especially when renters can’t pay and the landlords will also get Federal Aid for their Rental Business anyway. We must also do more in being prepared to be cut-off from the rest of the world like being more self-sufficient.
Containing and controlling as many of the major economic factors in our “isolated economy” with socialistic desperate measures for these desperate times is just something that our leaders must do for the BETTER GOOD of ALL in our society. Economic containment and control is key to how successful the CNMI will be in surviving and recovering from this global pandemic. The economic impact must be shared and distributed proportionately which is another lesson from this virus for the history books — greed is not acceptable. Economics is just one aspect in “working-the-problem” and another reason to establish a permanent Emergency Management Team beyond the Governor’s Cabinet, CHCC, Boards and Commissions that must include a recognized Economist, a Social Scientist and even a Political Scientist. If we have learned anything from this virus we should have LEARNED to listen to the SCIENTISTs and Professionals FIRST and foremost when dealing with desperate times that call for desperate measures. To be continued: One People One Direction.

The writer is a resident of Kagman, Saipan.

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