Editor's Note: Below is a brief excerpt from a complimentary Health Policy Unplugged note written by our Health Policy analyst Emily Evans. Click HERE to learn more about Emily's research process and the analysis subscribers receive.
Not sure how many more times the market, political leaders and public health “experts” can freak out over the most recent wave of COVID-19 variant without looking, well, stupid.
The essence of leadership, particularly the political kind, is a form of fearlessness. Not recklessness, not bravado, but fearlessness.
To lead without fear requires competence; a clear assessment of the tools at hand the willingness to use them. It also requires a more complete understanding of the situation than anyone else in the room.
The absence of fearlessness alone – forget bravery – implicates competency and understanding.
The point where yet another SARS-CoV-19 variant was identified on the African and European continents would be an ideal time to remind the markets and the nation that the U.S. has the most advanced health system in the world, not to mention the scientific power that developed a variety of vaccines, therapeutics, testing and sequencing strategies. Like it or not those things have allowed life in the U.S. to mostly returned to normal.
But no, America got a travel ban.
This sort of response is usually described by denizens of politics as “hiding under your desk” and it has consequences. Not for one party or the other as the Wall Street Journal attempts to describe. The dividing line will most likely be between fearlessness and fecklessness.
It is probably no coincidence that of the ten most popular Governors in the U.S., according to Morning Consult, six repudiated onerous non-pharmaceutical interventions.
Several, like Kay Ivey of Alabama, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas were vilified by everyone except, it appears the people that elected them.
It was a nice little experiment in world peace but the global trade and health organizations, born out of the demise of the U.S.S.R and the opening of China, now find themselves slipping sideways toward irrelevance in an almost comedic manner.
The WHO, whose greatest value appears to be naming things like variants of concern, now struggles with that task. When the alpha variant was named, no one thought to look down the Greek alphabet and raise concerns that one letter, XI, looked a whole lot like the name of a certain Chinese leader.
Instead that skipped over it (along with Nu, although that excuse is more plausible) last week and provided ammunition to critics and comedians the world over.
Fortunately for the WTO, Switzerland fell for the variant travel ban too. A meeting scheduled for Tuesday was supposed to show some progress on waivers of patents and intellectual property for COVID vaccines and treatments.
The fact is little progress has been made and likely never will be. Switzerland, the EU, and Britain are opposed. The U.S. is supportive of waivers related to vaccines only.
Almost everyone recognizes the debate over waivers for what it is – a way to satisfy the ambitions of India and South Africa to become pharmaceutical manufacturing nations. The barriers to universal COVID vaccinations stretch far beyond technology transfer.
Factors like the willingness of a government to champion such an effort when they might prefer lockdowns from time-to-time. Trust on the part of the public to accept the vaccination, especially given how politically charged the disease has become.
Look no further than the struggle to eradicate polio from the world as evidence that widespread global COVID vaccinations will be difficult, if not impossible.
Which brings us back to, if not the end, a significant reversal of globalism.
High Income Countries like the U.S. must and will separate themselves, to a degree, from the global economy. Critical functions like manufacturing, health care and communications cannot be put at risk by the poorly resourced public health capacity of other nations.
Samsung is building a chip factory in Texas; Pulte Homes is bringing some manufacturing home. HCA is getting into the PPE business plus a million other similar decisions we don’t know about.
Do not forget, the COVID relief funding in 2020 included generous support for re-domestication of certain industries. More to come for certain.
As division are emerging between countries, especially those with limited access to health care and vaccinations, so too are differences evident among U.S. states.
The unemployment rate in the U.S. five most populous states have been closely correlated for years. In April 2020, they diverged.
Today, California which likes to boast one of the largest economies in the world not just the U.S., has an unemployment rate of 7.3%, almost 300 basis point above the national number. New York ‘s is also high at 6.9%.
Florida, whose governor was vilified by everyone from the president to the press for his COVID response, now presides over a 4.6% unemployment rate, one that matches the national level.
That trend is not likely to be reversed anytime soon. Texas not California was Samsung’s choice to a chip factory.
How long before it occurs to Californians that Floridians look like they are having a lot more fun? With a 7%+ unemployment rate, probably not long.