Lamont’s Worst COVID Era Blunder?
We acknowledge there is no comprehensive manual for public officials when it comes to navigating a pandemic, never mind one that has brought the harrowing twists and turns of COVID-19 and its variants.
All anyone could hope for would be — above all — when it comes to making decisions affecting millions of Connecticut residents including those here in Newtown, that common sense prevails.
We also concede many are at least weary, or at worst, suffering constant anxiety because of this protracted pandemic and its effects on loved ones, our jobs, the nation’s education system, and lifestyles as we once knew them.
Absent said pandemic response manual, our governor and his administrative team — including some top officials who came to that team in process — on par have done a good job. Certainly anyone could cherry pick administrative missteps along the way. But perhaps it is because the state has fared so comparatively well from a leadership perspective through the COVID era, that the outrageous errors in judgment and lack of common sense involving the recent program to distribute in-home rapid virus test kits and masks are so conspicuous.
Governor Lamont, what were you thinking?
The domino effect of your apparently well intentioned plan gone awry to acquire millions of COVID home tests and masks — and putting them to work helping to reduce the highest rate of COVID positivity since the virus first developed in Connecticut — has negatively affected a legion of regional and municipal officials who you depended on to carry it out.
And worse, it has angered, frustrated, or marginalized thousands of the very citizens who so desperately needed, wanted, and deserved access to these anti-surge tools. Instead of under promising and over delivering, Lamont hastily announced the acquisition of millions of rapid, in-home COVID tests, and pledged to deliver them before they actually arrived.
Then, after issuing a supply-chain excuse for sudden delays, a meager portion of test kits became available. But Lamont rolled them out to communities like Newtown with zero guidance and no suggested options on how to distribute them. The rush to salvage some success from this hastily thought-out ‘Plan A’ left those like Newtown’s first selectman, health district director, and emergency management officials to initiate, walk back, rethink, postpone, and finally execute a distribution program that was as good or better than most of their peers. Despite that, local leaders and their peers across the state bore the brunt of residents’ justifiable exasperation.
In the end, while it may be incrementally helpful, only about 1,300 of nearly 30,000 local residents ended up with one of the first round of in-home COVID test kits. At press time, the companion plan to distribute millions of N95 masks was still up in the air, and a separate program that dispensed 670,000 more test kits across the state’s public school districts had reportedly been completed.
There is much to learn from the succession of errors creating what some might argue was among — or even the worst blunder since the governor and his administration began responding to the pandemic.
One would hope in the future, and at every step, state leaders will apply greater common sense. The governor and his advisors must think through how their decisions will impact local officials and residents before rushing to implement virus response efforts that are not yet fully evaluated for the collateral damage that could result, as it did, despite the best intentions.