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The massive spreads and fatalities of COVID-19 pandemic in the USA: symptoms of leadership failure

Oluwole Owoye (Social Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, Connecticut, USA)
Olugbenga A. Onafowora (Economics, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, USA)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 7 December 2021

Issue publication date: 13 July 2022

188

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to empirically examine whether the massive spreads and fatalities of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA, the country with the most advanced medical technology in the world, are symptomatic of leadership failure. The authors posit that when political leaders, such as the President of the USA, in conjunction with a group of state governors and city mayors, employed conspiracy theories and disinformation to achieve their political goals, they contributed to the massive spreads and fatalities of the virus, and they also undermined the credibility of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the health-care professionals in providing the pertinent control guidelines and true scientific-based medical information.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a review of current studies that address the handling of global infectious diseases to build a better understanding of the issue of pandemics. They then employed a theoretical framework to link the massive spreads and fatalities of the COVID-19 pandemic to political leaders, such as President Trump and the group of obsequious state governors and city mayors, who propagated conspiracy theories and disinformation through social media platforms to downplay the severity of the virus. The authors compared the massive spreads and fatalities of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA under President Trump to President Obama who handled H1N1, Ebola, Zika and Dengue. More importantly, the authors compared President Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to other political leaders in advanced countries where there were no concerted efforts to spread conspiracy theories and disinformation about the health risks of COVID-19 pandemic.

Findings

The authors' theoretical analysis alluded to the fact that political leaders, such as President Trump, who are engulfed in self-deceptions, self-projections and self-aggrandizements would engage in self-promotion and avoid accountability for their missteps in handling global pandemic shocks. In contrast, political leaders in other advanced countries did not downplay the severity thus their ability to curtail the spreads and fatalities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research limitations/implications

The theoretical viewpoints presented in this paper along with the derivations of the spreads–fatalities curtailment coefficients and the spread–fatality upsurge coefficients under Presidents Obama and Trump, respectively, may not be replicable. Given this plausible limitation, future research may need to provide a deep analysis of the amplifications of conspiracy theories and disinformation because they are now deeply rooted in the political economy of the USA. Furthermore, since scientists and medical professionals may not be able to forecast future epidemics or pandemics with pin-point accuracy nor predict how political leaders would disseminate health risks information associated with different pathogens, it is imperative that future research addresses the positive or adverse effects of conspiracy theories and disinformation that are now easily propagated simultaneously through different social media platforms, which are currently protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The multiplier effects of conspiracy theories and disinformation will continue to amplify the division about the authenticity of COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence or reemergence of other pathogens in the foreseeable future.

Originality/value

The authors derived the unique spreads-fatalities curtailment coefficients to demonstrate how President Obama used effective collaboration and coordination at all levels of government in conjunction with medical experts to curtail the spreads and fatalities associated with H1N1, Ebola, Zika and Dengue. They further derived the spreads-fatalities upsurge coefficients to highlight how President Trump contributed to the spreads and fatalities of COVID-19 pandemic through his inability to collaborate and coordinate with state governors, city mayors and different health-care agencies at the national and international levels.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their useful comments and suggestions, which contributed to improving the quality of this paper. The authors are responsible for the errors and omissions of this paper.

Citation

Owoye, O. and Onafowora, O.A. (2022), "The massive spreads and fatalities of COVID-19 pandemic in the USA: symptoms of leadership failure", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 134-150. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-08-2021-0048

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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