Murphy’s Law

Beyond the Curve: Dr. Peter Lurie's COVID-19 Blog

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It’s now over two weeks since the election, and still the Trump administration is throwing sand in the cogs of democracy. According to the source that imbues us bloggers with the appearance of knowledge and erudition – Wikipedia – Murphy’s Law is typically defined as “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” (By the way, Google helpfully inveighs that those who searched for Murphy’s Law also searched for Finagle’s Law and Sod’s Law.)

Who knew the Law’s eponymous naming would prove so apt? The latest twist in the post-election saga is the failure by a hitherto obscure Trump-appointed bureaucrat, General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy, to “ascertain” the obvious: that Joe Biden has clearly won the election. We know that the President operates in a self-contained world cordoned off from inconvenient truths and surrounded by sycophants who encourage his every whim. We also know that fundamentally he’s seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the incoming administration and that these efforts are doomed to failure.

But delays in acknowledging reality have consequences, particularly when a pandemic that the administration has sought to ignore is doing what ignored pandemics do: taking off exponentially. Joe Biden has already assembled a blue ribbon panel of experts to attack the pandemic (full disclosure: CSPI Board Chair David Kessler is its co-chair), but they won’t have access to government transition funds, offices and personnel without Murphy’s “ascertainment.”

That is why CSPI, together with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, Protect Democracy, and Public Citizen, helped organize nearly 200 former public health officials, public health and medical school deans, and public health and medical experts and researchers to write to Murphy yesterday demanding that she ascertain the election. Every additional day that the presidential transition is delayed compromises the incoming administration’s ability to respond, and thereby places American lives at risk, we wrote. Coordination with the outgoing administration is critical so the Biden team can get to work on Day One to evaluate vaccine development and prepare plans for vaccine distribution and deployment; fully understand state and local capacity to test for, trace, and treat COVID-19; develop specific mitigation strategies for businesses, schools, and other gathering spots; assess the national production capacity and supply chains for essential medications, personal protective equipment, and other needed medical supplies and equipment; gauge hospital bed and intensive care unit capacity and staffing; and much more. Cosignatories on the letter included Georges Benjamin (Executive Director of the American Public Health Association), Leana Wen (Former Health Commissioner of Baltimore), Perry Halkitis (Dean and Professor of Biostatistics and Urban-Global Public Health at the School of Public Health at Rutgers University), and Sten Vermund (Dean, Yale School of Public Health).

You can read our letter here.