Joe Henderson: When will leaders learn COVID-19 plays by its own rules?
The delta variant may lead to more restaurant closures.

Closed businesses for COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, closure sign on retail store window banner background. Government shutdown of restaurants, shopping stores, non essential services.
News flash: Asymptomatic carriers can still spread the virus.

If you remember no other quote from today, give this one by Dr. Scott Atlas a permanent place in your memory.

Atlas, a recent appointee to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, joined Gov. Ron DeSantis in a discussion about reopening schools. Atlas apparently is not a fan of shutdowns to minimize COVID-19 transmission.

As Florida Politics reported, Atlas had this to say about the virus.

Public policy, according to Atlas, should not be crafted to “just eliminate COVID-19 infection at all costs.”

Translation: Keep going to work, people. Crowd into those classrooms.

Further translation: Yeah, some of you might get sick, and some might die. We promise to feel really bad about that (not really). But damned if we know how to stop this bug so we’ll just have to live with it (so to speak).

Interesting timing.

Atlas’ remarks came as a Miami Herald story made national news. The Herald found a Florida Department of Health report that nearly 900 students and staffers tested positive over two weeks in August as schools ramped up to reopen in-person learning.

The Herald also said the six-page draft apparently was published inadvertently online. It was quickly removed. A department spokesman said the report wasn’t ready for full publication. The Herald obtained a copy before it disappeared.

Schools opened Monday in Bay area counties for in-person instruction, including more than 200 schools throughout Hillsborough County. Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis had a big announcement: Tampa General Hospital will offer rapid-testing for COVID-19 to teachers and staff throughout the district.

“Our teachers and employees are the heart and soul of Hillsborough County Public Schools, and their safety is paramount to not only this administration but to our entire community,” Davis said.

Pasco County announced a similar plan.

Meanwhile, Atlas said the state’s priority shouldn’t include monitoring asymptomatic cases. He said those cases can lead to lockdowns, which hurts the economy.

Well, this just in: Those asymptomatic cases can become symptomatic at the snap of a finger. One asymptomatic carrier can make dozens of people sick.

Is this a good time to mention that as of Monday 11,118 people have died in Florida from COVID-19? That number doesn’t include those who survived but sustained serious damage to vital organs. The virus can cause damage to asymptomatic people, too.

Those showing no signs of the disease outwardly can still spread the virus. That’s especially true of children.

So, yeah, I think Dr. Atlas’ statement was infuriating, bordering on medical quackery.

The goal absolutely should be to eliminate COVID-19, whatever the cost. To say otherwise implies that a certain level of collateral damage is acceptable with the election just two months away.

“We are the only country of our peer nations in the Western world who are this hysterical about opening schools,” Atlas said.

Maybe we wouldn’t be if the initial response from state and national leaders hadn’t been so half-hearted. You guys haven’t built up a lot of public trust.

President Donald Trump’s approach, shared by loyal acolyte DeSantis, is to get “back to normal” ASAPBN – As Soon As Possible Before November.

Yes, we all have cabin fever.

Economic hardships are profound throughout Florida and the nation. But how long will it take until leaders understand the virus plays by its own rules? Real leaders would make public policy to reflect that reality.

By the look of things, we’re not even close.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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