As one particular news story continues to understandably dominate headlines, corrupt politicians see an opportunity to capitalize on distraction. Today’s 5 stories focus on public corruption in the time of COVID-19, with examples ranging from intentional promotion of unproven treatments to cooking the books of vital public data. As always, stories are taken from the newspaper headlines curated by newseum.org.
Image of Coronado National Memorial in Arizona, courtesy of National Parks Service
Despite an ongoing pandemic, crews are racing to erect Trump’s bizarre 30-foot slat border wall by election day. The construction has already caused crews to tear down endangered plant life and damage sacred sites for the region’s indigenous peoples, and it will only get worse as crews are pushed to erect the wall ahead of schedule. This all occurs in spite of multiple environmental regulations and treaties banning the construction and opposition from locals.
Despite condemnation from the medical community, Trump insisted that publicly promoting the use of an antimalarial agent as an unproven treatment was his right. This, despite even his own administration’s protestations that the medication was deeply unsafe for use outside of a clinical or research setting. Doctors warn that even when used as intended and under supervision by a physician, hydroxychloroquine causes nausea, vomiting, arrhythmia, and even seizures.
Multiple state governments are touting statistics which may be incorrect - or worse, intentionally obfuscated - as state officials debate whether or not to reopen. In one particularly egregious example, Georgia officials attempted to pass off a graph of declining infections as chronological, when in fact they’d ordered the data by highest-to-lowest infection rate to give the false appearance of a decline. This trend worries researchers, who expressed concern that officials would be making decisions based off of data that was knowingly inaccurate.
Homeless tents in Los Angeles Skid Row by Russ Allison Loar, courtesy Wikimedia foundation under CC BY-SA 4.0 License
Despite health concerns related to displacing the homeless, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered them moved under the pretense that living under freeways was dangerous for their health. However, local and CDC officials expressed concern that evictions would only result in the homeless resettling elsewhere without entering housing or shelters, likely spreading the disease further through at-risk populations. Advocates for the homeless are concerned that the judge is more concerned with the appearance of doing something than with genuinely improving the lives of the homeless.
After publicly expressing concerns over data transparency, Florida state data scientist Rebekah Jones was fired from her job. Despite her work on Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard earning national attention and praise, Governor DeSantis’s office stood by their decision. This decision comes even after multiple newspapers sued the state government over troubling gaps in their available data.
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