Communication nearly as important as medicine during COVID-19 crisis

Xavier Golden, Columnist

On Monday, I decided I was going to write speculatively about the coronavirus; who might be infected, who would be in danger and what we could do. Four days later, Michigan is in a state of emergency. This topic isn’t speculative anymore, and as it turns out, it hasn’t been for a very long time. 

Our government is partially to blame for this. When people needed to know the severity of this disease, our president told them not to panic. There are strategies that could have been implemented to slow the spread of the disease — use the test that Germany developed instead of making a flawed one, pass laws that would let people take sick leave — that they didn’t do, because of petty political agendas. 

But criticizing the president for this, there’s no vindication in it for me. Even though his elderly supporters are, finally, the ones being put in danger by his irresponsible behavior, they can’t even acknowledge it because of their faith in our president. 

I’m fully aware that this isn’t the end of the world, but the nihilism that COVID-19 is prompting is almost suffocating. Movie releases are being delayed, conventions are being canceled, people are staying home; it’s like America is holding its breath, just waiting for it to be over. 

And that brings me to my point, or at least what I think is the weirdest thing about this pandemic: the cancelations.

Some of the very first people to take action against COVID-19 were private companies. Movie studios, sports leagues and game publishers made the very wise decisions to cancel their events in order to prevent the spread of the disease (and, surely, a lawsuit or two). 

Now, I’m not saying that these for-profit companies are making responsible choices for humanitarian reasons, but they might as well be. In a moment of crisis, the government has fumbled the ball and the private sector is making a competent play. 

I don’t know how much I need to stress this, but that’s not how things should be working, ever. But these are the consequences of a corporate-minded, regulation-slashing government: when its people are in need, it is powerless to help. And this time, it didn’t go as badly as it could have — thanks to some facets of the private sector — but the public good isn’t always in the best interests of private citizens. As we know, corporations are still punishing their employees for not coming to work, even during a pandemic. 

When this passes, I think we’ll be tempted to move on. But, like with all failures, we need to learn from this experience. We need to make some changes so that when this happens again, a film festival won’t have to make the tough choices. 

For now, we’re all focusing on surviving — and we should be — but when this is over, we have some serious work to do. And, to be fair, some parts of our government are trying to take action — Pelosi’s attempts to pass a coronavirus relief package, for instance — but our president is still telling people not to worry, and a significant part of our government is taking his side.