In a crisis, it's important to have a unified distribution method for essential information. However, with a crisis as overwhelming as COVID-19, many governments look to provide immediate updates to constituents. This can result in public confusion. This past weekend featured updates from the president, governors and mayors. The public found nothing but inconsistencies in what it needed to know.
President vs. Governors
President Trump has never shied from his insistence on reopening the country as soon as possible. However, the dates he's suggested, including Easter Sunday, continue to be soft, especially as data for virus cases ebbs and flows depending on geographic location.
As data from states like California, Oregon and New York suggests a plateau in coronavirus cases, a growing message of reopening seems to be swelling. The country finds itself at a pivotal moment. Messaging needs to be balanced between the gates opening for a return to normal and prudence. A miscalculation on re-opening could either make or break the country. Especially without a plan for comprehensive testing or containment.
More confusion: while the president continues to push for re-opening, claiming that he is the only one who can make that call, some governors are standing their ground. They claim re-opening is a state and local decision. In addition, they say they'll use their research to determine when lockdowns will be ended.
For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2020
Maryland governor Larry Hogan told ABC’s “This Week” yesterday that reopening is not an easy decision.
“Right now, the first thing is saving lives and keeping people safe,” Hogan said. “We do also have to think about how do we eventually ramp up and get some folks back to work. But you can’t just pick a date and flip a switch. I don’t think it’s going to be that simple.”
Governor vs. Mayor
New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio also found themselves at odds this weekend. The problem erupted after de Blasio issued a ruling about closing NYC public schools for the remainder of the school year.
In a Saturday press conference, Cuomo said the final decision is his. On Monday, de Blasio reiterated his decision, regarding the safety of students, saying schools would remain closed indefinitely.
And so the dance continues while the politicians spar, leaving parents sitting confused in the middle of a battle over control, where nobody wins.
In an interview today (April 13) with WPIX-TV, de Blasio said parents should “simply plan on the fact that [schools will] be closed. I’m quite convinced that they will be and that’s the right thing to do.”
While New York is nowhere near ready to lift restrictions, many parents will more than likely heed the mayor’s advice.
President vs. Doctor
And in what seems to be a risky move for President Trump, the avid tweeter retweeted a post containing a #FireFauci hashtag this weekend.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of America’s most-trusted health care experts, appeared on CNN during the weekend, fielding a question about whether more lives could have been saved had the government responded quicker to the coronavirus.
“You could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci said. “Obviously, no one is going to deny that.”
In a recent Quinnipiac national survey, Fauci received the highest approval rating. A total of 78 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the coronavirus. Governors came in second, and President Trump, third.
Trump and Fauci have disagreed on facts several times, most starkly about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine.
With so many Americans favoring Fauci’s expertise, it pays for Trump to take a second look at keeping him in his wheelhouse. Dismissing Fauci could cause outrage among even some of the president's staunchest supporters.
[Update, April 13, 1:30pm ET: The White House issued a statement saying the president does not intend to fire Dr. Fauci.]
PR Takeaway: When it comes to public health, you can never have enough experienced experts. And when it comes to inconsistencies in information, leaders need to put their egos aside and work together to create a plan and decide what is best for the public, especially in this new period of infection plateau that may be hitting several areas. People will seek guidance on a daily basis. How the nuance with which that is delivered can mean life or death.
[Update, April 13, 3:30pm ET: Regional governors meet to discuss a coordinated response to reopen economies.]
This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.