In a crisis, how do you make a difference?
Actions. The actions you choose to make, as well as the actions you choose not to make. That’s how you make a difference.
Some actions move the needle in a positive direction. Others, not so much.
The actions of our leaders are important: They give us guidance. They are signposts of how we should direct our energy and resources. It is a marker, laid down to show how committed a leader is to solving a problem.
And that’s why the graph above is so important. It shows a serious difference between the actions of two leaders.
One leader took actions nearly a full week before the other, and the results are stark.
Two states, Tennessee and Kentucky, that are strikingly similar in urban/rural mix and a whole bunch of other things. What makes them different is they took divergent policy paths. And the results are there for all to see.
Two states, two realities
There are some real policy differences between Kentucky and Tennessee, beyond the response to the coronavirus.
Kentucky expanded Medicaid. In fact, their last governor lost the election on trying to end Medicaid expansion. Tennessee has not. State leaders continue to cite fiscal reasons rather than recognize the huge human cost. As a result, Kentucky has seen just 5 rural hospital closures since 2009. Tennessee, on the other hand has seen 13, 10 of those since 2012.
These policy decisions, and the outcomes also show up in the response to the current pandemic. Kentucky started the process a full week before Tennessee, and as a result, have far fewer cases, despite similar numbers of tests being given.
Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order calling for all dine-in restaurants, gyms and bars to close.
The Governor of Kentucky did that a week ago. Yesterday, Beshear ordered all non-essential businesses closed. Some Mayors in Tennessee have done the same. How many more people have to get sick before TN Gov. Bill Lee follows Kentucky leaders? Another week? We don’t have that much time.
According to the COVID Act Now website, Tennessee has to act RIGHT NOW to ensure our hospitals aren’t overrun with patients by the first week of April.
Yesterday, over 1500 doctors asked the governor to make a “shelter in place” declaration. That would put Tennessee ahead of Kentucky. That also might help flatten our curve much faster. But so far, its not happening.
How you can make a difference
Do yourself, and all of us a favor: stay at home if you can.
This is an unprecedented time, and it calls for unprecedented measures. Staying at home may make you want to pull your hair out, but it will also protect you from accidental infection, or if you’re infected but asymptomatic, keep you from unknowingly infecting others.
It is the most responsible thing to do.
Even if our governor would rather make a bet that the short-term impact will outweigh the long-term, I say that bet is a fool’s errand.
Leaders could make a difference if they wanted to lead.
In their absence, its up to us to make a difference.