A steady and consistent national and local government leadership is crucial in times of crisis. The trust in government–which can be so fragile–was strong in Eldoret town, a large municipal in western Kenya widely known for ethnic conflicts. In our interviews with 20 business people and 30 community members from Eldoret town, we found that the trust built early in the pandemic was broken due to individual leaders who eventually dismissed public health promotion and engaged in politics and corruption of funds for COVID-19 relief. When leadership was strong, locals in Eldoret town (and especially business owners) engaged in public health prevention measures for the greater good. But when leadership slipped, people complained and eventually ignored public health prevention measures at home, on the bus, and in businesses around town, causing the intensification of outbreaks. This was most common among those engaged in the formal economy as those in the informal economy were more likely to mistrust the government altogether. We show who falls through the cracks when government policy targets viral threats and suggest how local government and public health agencies might work to control COVID-19 infections while ensuring that all Eldoret residents are cared for.