John O’Connor

I’m all for putting politicians in charge of shaping policy. But I do sometimes wish they’d treat the honor with a bit more respect.

Case in point: Most of the expert medical advice currently available suggests that mixing the novel coronavirus and large crowds is not a good idea. That is, unless the idea is to make as many people as possible as sick as possible as quickly as possible.

Yet we’re seeing many politicians cave in to pressure to relax social distancing recommendations, much less quarantining rules. Sadly, the issue has largely devolved into a political contest. As if a virus could possibly care whether its victims happen to be Republicans or Democrats.

Alas, as political considerations continue to challenge common sense, we are seeing some truly frightening things being suggested — and in some cases, taking place.

Consider, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is apparently actually mulling measures that would allow nursing home residents to receive visitors.

In a brilliant essay, Forbes Columnist Howard Gleckman speaks to the folly of such a proposal.

Yes, he notes, many residents are suffering from loneliness and depression. That is one of the many truly sad realities of this pandemic.

But talk about the cure being worse than the illness: Address those and other concerns by letting death literally walk in the front door?

“It makes absolutely no sense to reopen facilities to visitors now. Nursing homes still don’t have enough coronavirus tests. Assisted living has even less. And tests often take many days to produce results. Absent immediate results — like those available to the White House staff — opening care facilities puts staff and residents at risk from visitors, while at the same time placing those visitors at risk,” he notes.

The discussion here should not be a matter of political debate. For at its core, taking care of residents is first and foremost a healthcare issue.

Keeping residents safe should be the only objective that matters. Sacrificing that notion at the altar of political expediency goes beyond poor judgment. It’s shameful. 

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s