Catching Saul Alinsky's Virus 4

Red tape is hampering our pandemic responses.

What will the world look like this time next year?  Normally the answer is obvious - pretty much the same as last year, but with a bit less hair on the head of your humble correspondent.

In these times, though, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the coronavirus panic is going to change how we live our daily lives in countless ways.  The Democrats certainly hope so - they've been working overtime to try to use the crisis as an opportunity to ram through their anti-American policies that, in normal times, would have been rejected with disgust.

Why are they the only ones who keep their eye on the ball no matter what?  Although some Republicans are better at playing defense than others, when you play defense, you lose.  If you play well, you lose slowly, but you always lose eventually.

Until President Reagan, the Western attitude toward the Soviet Union was not to lose - and we weren't doing terribly well at that in the long run.  Mr. Reagan realized the inevitable outcome.  He shifted to offense against the Soviets' economic weakness and bankrupted the Evil Empire.

The Democrats' weakness is that none of their ideas produce any value for society.  Mr. Trump went on offense and created economic value that many previously unemployed people found jobs.  Things were looking pretty bad for the Democrats a month ago, until this crisis areose to destroy the economy and save them.

The virus has essentially brought our economy to a standstill, and all the Democrats' measures against the resulting economic chaos are designed to waste resources and make it worse.  In order to save the country and win re-election, Trump needs to continue to lead with substantive ideas that recognize changed post-coronavirus realities, and also help the cause of liberty.  Here are a few more for him.

Pay the Ambulance Workers

The virus crisis has shed light on yet another stupid rule that increases health care costs.  The Wall Street Journal tells us that hospital overcrowding costs ambulance services revenue:

As the respiratory illness spreads, ambulance services are increasingly weighing patient needs against the risk of contaminating more people, further packing already strained facilities and using precious face masks and gloves in transporting noncritical patients to hospitals. They are trying to treat more people with common ailments or mild symptoms of Covid-19 - the disease caused by the novel virus - in their homes[emphasis added]

This makes total sense.  We know some highly skilled EMTs.  They make rapid decisions in life-threatening situations and know the sorrow of being wrong.  There's no reason they shouldn't handle whatever they can without taking patients to hospitals.

At the same time, emergency transport services get paid only when they bring patients to hospitals, leaders of those agencies say. Raising the threshold for a hospital trip means sacrificing revenue.  [emphasis added]

And we wonder why medical costs are so high!  If a child gets a bad cut which needs a few stitches, the only solution under current regulations is to bring the patient to the hospital and go through the entire, outrageously costly ER process.

As we mentioned earlier, Mr. Trump has relaxed regulations so that non-doctors are able to apply more treatments.  There are no longer regulatory barriers to EMTs fixing simple issues outside the hospital, but we can't expect them to work for free.

Instead of penalizing EMTs for keeping patients away from the hospital where all the best germs hang out, we ought to pay more when they handle it themselves - because it'll still be cheaper than emergency room care, to say nothing of less potential for coronavirus infection.

Set The Navy Free!

There is no end to the mesh of regulations that keep us from handling the crisis well.  The New York Times reports that the beautiful white Navy hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort which landed in New York on Monday, March 30, had a grand total of 20 patients as of April 2.

That's not an April Fool's joke - the other hospital ship U.S.N.S. Mercy, docked in Los Angeles, had 15 patients.  City medical leaders are not amused:

"If I'm blunt about it, it's a joke," said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York's largest hospital system. "Everyone can say, 'Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.' But we're in a crisis here, we're in a battlefield."

After describing the hope aroused by the ship's arrival, the Times described a few of the many reasons for this ridiculous situation which has a fully-equipped 1,000 bed hospital sitting idle in the midst of a city of hospitals crammed to overflowing.

A tangle of military protocols and bureaucratic hurdles has prevented the Comfort from accepting many patients at all.

On top of its strict rules preventing people infected with the virus from coming on board, the Navy is also refusing to treat a host of other conditions. Guidelines disseminated to hospitals included a list of 49 medical conditions that would exclude a patient from admittance to the ship.

Ambulances cannot take patients directly to the Comfort; they must first deliver patients to a city hospital for a lengthy evaluation - including a test for the virus - and then pick them up again for transport to the ship.

We've shown how overstretched ambulance services aren't getting paid when they treat patients in their homes instead of bringing them to hospitals.  Will they get paid for transferring patients to a ship?

To be fair, the ship wasn't planning to treat virus patients.  The thought was that by dealing with non-COVID cases, the ship would offload the hospitals and let them specialize.  The Times explains why that didn't work out as planned:

... there is not a high volume of noncoronavirus patients. Because most New Yorkers have isolated themselves in their homes, there are fewer injuries from car accidents, gun shots and construction accidents that would require an emergency room visit. Ultimately, Mr. Dowling and others said, if the Comfort refuses to take Covid patients, there are few patients to send.

Having suspended EPA regulations, Mr. Trump, as Commander in Chief, needs to tell the captain, "Take all you can; we'll sort out the paperwork later."

Let Them Make Masks!

If nothing else, bat soup flu has highlighted the utter folly of anyone relying on China for essential medical supplies such as face masks.  American ingenuity has come through and a number of "open source" projects are ready to produce $300 ventilators and the more protective N95 face masks in volume.  The Free Beacon describes the travails of one of these projects:

The Open PPE Project is trying to ensure availability of N95 respirators, which are in short supply as the coronavirus besets the United States, by creating an American supply chain ...

... a federal bureaucracy struggling amid the epidemic lacks the resources to bring such a project online. One of the project's leads, Matt Parlmer, told the Washington Free Beacon that his project cannot even begin, as federal inspectors remain under-resourced and stuck at home under a federal ban on nonessential travel. ...

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH)-the subdivision of the CDC responsible for ensuring quality standards for N95 respirators-told the Open PPE Project that approval could take one-and-a-half to three months, a lifetime in pandemic terms.  [emphasis added]

In order to get production off the ground, Parlmer explained, NIOSH would need to certify that the masks his group produced are able to form a tight seal on the wearer's face and adequately filter particles.

There is another Trumpian solution:

"If we could get some sort of executive directive, something from the White House directing NIOSH to delegate approval to qualified university laboratories, that alone would be huge,"

Alas, our President has been pretty busy of late.  He delegated the authority to declassify documents to Mr. Barr so that the Attorney General could investigate the origin of the spying campaign against the Trump campaign.  To whom could he delegate the authority to suspend regulations?  Certainly not to anyone in the federal bureaucracy.  Whom would you suggest?

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

I forwarded this piece to my Congressman and both Senators. Sadly, your points make far too much sense to register with them....
Please keep the common sense and logic flowing; it will get through someday.

April 8, 2020 8:13 PM
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