Democratic Primaries During a Pandemic
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and specific guidelines from the CDC recommending that people avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more, Democratic primaries in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona were allowed to move forward. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, the governors and the Democratic party leadership of the aforementioned states should be considered guilty of gross negligence for allowing hundreds of thousands of people to run the risk of contracting and continuing to spread the deadly contagion.
Images from the primary in Illinois show masses of voters waiting in long lines to cast their votes.
In one polling location, dozens of people can be seen closely huddled together waiting to vote.
One voter describes a similar situation at a polling station in Chicago where senior citizens, the most at risk of infection during the pandemic, had been huddled in a room for 2–3 hours.
A new report from the Imperial College of London estimates the likely number of infections and deaths if there are no steps taken to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Great Britain and the United States. In the absence of reliable pharmaceutical treatments, an estimated 81% of the nation will become infected, and 2.2 million deaths are to be expected in the U.S. With no effective treatment in place, the only measures available to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are what the report calls “non-pharmaceutical interventions”, NPIs, meant to reduce the transmission of the disease by reducing the rate of contact between people in the general population. These measures include closing schools, businesses, churches, social venues, and any other action that would drastically reduce the time a person spends in the general population.
The risk of not implementing such restrictions, while there is still a persistent shortage of COVID-19 testing, is precisely why cities like San Francisco, CA instituted “shelter in place” orders. The Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed (D), ordered all non-essential businesses closed and instructed its residents not to venture outside unless it was to purchase food or visit a doctor. Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York (D), is also contemplating ordering similar restrictions for New York City. Other countries around the globe, such as France, Italy, and Spain, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic have already instituted variations of the same restrictions to combat the spread.
Out of all the states scheduled to conduct Democratic primaries on 3/18, only one sought to postpone the primary out of the interests of public health. Republican governor, Mike DeWine of Ohio, postponed the Democratic primary because of the public health risk COVID-19 posed to his constituents.
Due to a lack of tests in the U.S., an appallingly low number of people have been tested for COVID-19. Authorities have no idea as to how many people are infected with the virus. With many countries afflicted by COVID-19 taking drastic measures to reduce its transmission, it boggles the mind as to how Democratic primaries in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois were allowed to proceed.
None of the governors of the aforementioned states, J.B. Pritzker (D-IL), Doug Ducey (R-AZ), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), followed DeWine’s example nor did they heed the guidelines provided by the CDC to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19. DNC chairman, Tom Perez, could have called on the state Democratic parties in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois, to postpone their respective primaries in the interests of public safety but instead chose not to.
To make matters worse, former Vice President Joe Biden, firmly in the delegate lead over candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, urged voters who are “not at risk of being exposed” to go out and vote.
Any public official suggesting there is such a thing as a person not being at risk in a pandemic either hasn’t read the CDC guidelines or simply doesn’t care.
It’s clear the Democratic party wants to conclude this primary and begin to pivot towards the general election, but at what cost? There are still many states yet to vote in the Democratic primary, and it begs the question if vote-by-mail only restrictions will be instituted to reduce the risk to voters. With cities and countries around the world taking heed of the directives coming from infectious disease experts and public health officials, by not postponing the primaries on 3/18, the governors of Illinois, Arizona, and Florida demonstrated gross negligence and a complete disregard for public safety. DNC chairman Tom Perez is not only guilty of negligence but also of choosing to elevate Democratic primary politics over the interests of the public health.
When the general election arrives, and Democrats argue that Trump isn’t fit for office, they will do so knowing that their party leadership disregarded guidelines from the country’s premier authority on infectious diseases so as to move their primary process along. As they will undoubtedly argue that Trump doesn’t deserve to remain in the presidency, they will do so having demonstrated that they don’t deserve to wield power either.