Dr. Jeffrey Singer is in a unique position to opine on the current situation in our country and state. Not only has he worked as a general surgeon for 35 years, including within a hospital, he is also a Senior Fellow with the Cato Institute, researching and analyzing public policy.
Dr. Singer has published several articles on the COVID-19 pandemic, two recently in the Washington Examiner and USA Today. Both highlight areas in which governments have taken broad policy actions that have had major costs and harmful unintended consequences. He instead recommends policymakers take both a targeted as well as softer, education-focused approach to public health directives.
Our leaders are in a difficult situation trying to balance the roller coaster of public opinion which often supports those decisions which avoid consequences that can be readily observed. This explains why elected officials have gravitated toward sweeping lockdowns, bans, and mandates. Yet Singer points out, these policies do not consider the consequences that are not as easily observed. Aside from the obvious financial hardships forced shutdowns have wreaked on employment, businesses, life savings and the overall economy, there have been massive public health costs.
These include the untold lives that will be claimed from serious illnesses because of bans on screening procedures, from chronic diseases because patients could not keep routine appointments, and from suicides as those already battling depression fail to cope with prolonged isolation.
Furthermore, Arizona’s Governor, like in many other states, issued an executive order prohibiting “elective” surgery. This was a strategy to ensure the hospitals could build capacity and not be overrun by pandemic patients. But as Dr. Singer points out in his USA Today article, elective surgeries are not the same as unnecessary surgeries. He suggests instead that a more lasered and effective approach would be to allow doctors, not bureaucrats, discern which surgeries should be done based upon an analysis of risk to the hospital and patient on an individual basis.
A wise approach.
Aside from economic and health repercussions to top-down mandates, our country and state has seen dramatic civil unrest. Afterall, this is still the “land of the free” and Americans do not accept controls and dictates from government as easily as citizens of other countries.
Ultimately Singer’s conclusion is the right one, “Central governments and public health officials should use a light touch when responding to public health emergencies. Responses should be targeted, nuanced, flexible, and easily adjust to changes on the ground based upon local knowledge. For this to happen, the government should provide people with accurate and up-to-date information on the nature and status of the public health emergency, along with the necessary information and tools so they can best cope with the emergency. There is good reason to believe that, given the right information and using persuasion instead of coercion, public health officials are more likely to get cooperation from the public.”