“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout!”
–Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny
The Caine Mutiny is the 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk which chronicles the increasingly irrational behavior of Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, a by-the-book veteran naval officer, as he loses the respect of the officers and crew of the USS Caine, who ultimately relieve Queeg of command during a typhoon leading to a final dramatic court martial.
For students of the power and possibilities of leadership, the novel – and subsequent 1954 film starring Humphry Bogart – demonstrate how a lack of effective communication, perceived tyranny, paralysis of action, incompetence, and inconsistency can quickly conspire to erode confidence – something that can prove extremely dangerous during a crisis.
I am limiting this Friday’s Angels & Assholes to the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County – which, in my view, has taken on all the characteristics of a rudderless ship – because the ham-handed, wholly disorganized, and conflicting nature of the initial distribution of a limited supply of potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine this week made national news and served as a horrific example of what happens when poorly led government agencies run amok.
As often happens during a catastrophe, some heroes emerged.
In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department acted flawlessly – and we owe them a debt of gratitude for doing what they do best in developing an organized and effective traffic plan while providing physical security – after being handed a steaming pile of bullshit by the FDOH and asked to make apple pandowdy.
After the confusing mess of Monday morning, that evening the vacillating nature of the FDOH dissemination “plan” left one thousand Volusia County seniors camped in their cars, locked inside the Daytona Stadium venue with temperatures dipping to the 40’s, to prevent the massive accumulation of cars parked on the shoulder of LPGA Boulevard.
Does any of that seem reasonable, organized, or effective to you?
In turn, thousands more were shooed away from the first come/first served chaos – which one vaccine-seeking senior aptly described as a “cluster (expletive)” in The Daytona Beach News-Journal – with many more questioning why their public health apparatus is making the distribution process so intentionally difficult?
There were poignant stories of grandparents desperate to receive the vaccine so they could cuddle their grandchildren after months of isolation – while others with preexisting conditions worried that they would succumb to the virus before they had the opportunity to be inoculated.
Desperate. Confused. Frustrated. Life and death.
In my view, because the stakes are so incredibly high, this is perhaps the greatest failure of local leadership in our time – and it should not go unaddressed.
Look, I am not an expert. God knows I made my share of mistakes during my time in government.
But my career development included earning the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation – and I can tell you with certainty that the mass distribution of medical countermeasures for epidemic illness and high consequence biological events is nothing new.
So why aren’t these established, tested, and exercised plans being implemented?
Part of my education and preparation included the study of “disaster ethics” – which state providers have an obligation to deliver care and services consistent with the professional standards of consistency, fairness, effectiveness, and transparency.
That is not what I am seeing here. Are you?
Having served in a leadership role during dynamic events and been responsible for developing public policy and protocols for the command and control of multijurisdictional emergencies, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the FDOH in Volusia County is not up to this monumental task.
Now is the time for Governor Ron DeSantis to pull out all the stops, lobby for an increased supply of vaccine and improve logistics, engage medical elements of the Florida National Guard, seek private assistance if necessary, and turn every quick care facility, hospital, pharmacy, primary care physician, and every suitable parking lot in the state into a vaccine distribution site – or demand that the response be federalized and simply get out of the way.
Time is of the essence – and this “cluster (expletive)” cannot continue.
Photo Credit: WFTV-9