Editorial: As COVID-19 worsens, where is the leadership to stop it?

As our newspapers are reporting this week, the local COVID-19 infection rate is rising, and rising sharply. While new cases are soaring over 130,000 per day across the country, Suffolk County experienced 1,337 confirmed cases over four days, ending Thursday.

Nothing sums up the complete failure of the outgoing Trump administration like its purposeful mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, now well into its 10th month ravaging our country. A CEO of any American company who failed at this high level would have been sacked, and had a Democrat failed at such an epic level, Republicans and conservatives would have been on solid ground demanding their removal from office.

But, to the detriment of our country, that’s not what we see going on as hypocrisy reigns supreme. The outgoing president’s most ardent supporters know this is true, even as they huff and puff on social media and on talk television, inventing conspiracies and making baseless accusations that demean our democracy, ones that even Fox News turns away from.

Some continue to toss around charges that the American election was “stolen” from the soon-to-be-gone president. No evidence has surfaced of stuffed ballot boxes and tens of thousands of dead people voting. And there was no evidence of that in 2016, when Donald Trump won narrowly and his supporters demanded the Democrats accept the results. Why is it true now? Mr. Trump set up an “integrity commission” to examine his accusations in 2016 that millions of illegal votes were cast; it found nothing at all.

What supporters of the outgoing president seem to miss is this: The GOP did rather well on down-ballot candidates, even cutting the Democratic advantage in the House of Representatives. 

Locally, GOP candidates appear to have won the state Assembly and Senate seats, with the 1st Congressional District seat solidly in Republican hands, even if those races have not been officially called. The numbers tell the story. 

What those making allegations about cheating don’t say is the GOP names were on the same ballots as the presidential candidates. They are accepting those counts where the GOP won — but the top line was stolen? On the very same ballots? That would be quite a trick.

As we look back at the election, it is obvious to some observers that protesters throwing bricks through windows and burning down buildings and denouncing police officers in some American towns and cities only added to the GOP vote total. 

The political turmoil now roiling the country is going on when we need, more than ever, a concerted national policy that will, once and for all, put the brakes on the pandemic.

We say this now on our websites: “Last week, there were 88 new coronavirus cases in Riverhead and Southold towns, according to data reported Sunday by the Suffolk County Department of Health. The infection rate countywide was 3.8% Monday, a full point above the statewide rate.”

As of midday Tuesday on the North Fork: Cut-ch-ogue New Suffolk Free Library is closed due to infections; our school districts are restricting in-person learning in the upper levels; and the North Fork Country Club, which irresponsibly hosted a wedding that turned into a superspreader event, has had its liquor license yanked by the state. Note to golfers: You can play, but don’t come in for a cold beer.

A week after the election the country can’t get its act together as how best to attack our common problems and to act effectively. By all evidence so far, ballots — those cast in person and those mailed in — are being counted fairly and accurately by civil service professionals from both parties across the country. 

As a side note, there are no “civil service professionals” in Suffolk’s Board of Elections, which has long been a patronage trough for the major parties, with high-paying jobs divided up by party bosses. An unemployed person can’t walk into the BOE and ask to fill out a job application and expect consideration. They would have to sit on someone’s lap first. Talk about discrimination. 

President-elect Joe Biden talks about bringing the country together. If, after all these months, we can’t even come up with a common strategy to stop a virus that has killed more than 230,000 Americans, wiped out tens of millions of jobs, and put students’ educations in doubt, his talk will be little more than a pipe dream, and what people proudly called “American exceptionalism” will be further eroded.