Since the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus became international news and a national panic across China, with millions placed under lockdown and travel restrictions and screenings put in place across the country, the city's mayor, Zhou Xianwang, has been prominent in state media coverage of the crisis.
While this could be seen as positive for Zhou, a sign of the central government's faith in him and his leadership on the ground -- it's likely the opposite. His appearances have all come since the central government and President Xi Jinping seized control of the crisis, and after intense criticism of him and other Hubei provincial officials' handling of the initial outbreak online and in state media.
In an interview last week, Zhou admitted that the city's warnings were "not sufficient." That followed revelations that Wuhan leaders had gone ahead with a world record pot luck dinner attempt involving 40,000 families, and had held a provincial Party congress after the first cases of the virus were detected.
Zhou has defended his decision-making somewhat, explaining that he did not know the situation was so serious, but recent findings have suggested that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus earlier than previously claimed, and Hubei has been criticized for not instituting screening until January 14.
"We understand that the public is unsatisfied with our information disclosure. On one hand, we failed to disclose relevant information in a timely manner; on the other, we did not make sufficient use of valid information to improve our work," Zhou said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV this week.
"As for the late disclosure, I hope the public can understand that it's an infectious disease, and relevant information should be released according to the law. As a local government, we can only disclose information after being authorized."
He admitted that should they fail to contain the virus, Wuhan officials "might leave a bad name in history," and offered to resign.
"If it's conducive to the control of the virus and the protection of the safety of the people, Ma Guoqiang (the Party chief of Wuhan) and I can shoulder whatever responsibilities," he told CCTV. "We would like to be removed from the office to appease public indignation."
It's likely too early for Zhou and Ma's scalps to be politically useful, however. Were they to be fired now, any further crises down the line would fall directly on the shoulders of the central government and President Xi himself.
Faced with numerous other issues both at home and abroad, Xi can ill afford being blamed for the Wuhan outbreak, and may decide it's more useful to keep two obvious fall guys front and center in the public's imagination to soak up the opprobrium. With the virus expected to continue spreading for several months though, there will likely be more than enough to go around.