We mourn the deaths of more than 212,000 Americans and grieve over the tragic fact that many of those lost lives could have been saved had our national government taken the obvious steps that other nations’ leaders took to protect their citizens and bring the virus under far better control. Instead, Trump politicized the pandemic. He rashly dismissed the resources at his disposal. He threw away the 100-page playbook on how to deal with a pandemic left him by the Obama administration. He disbanded the government’s pandemic bureaucracy. He pulled out the CDC epidemiologists stationed in China to warn us of potential pandemics. When the virus hit, he could have blanket-invoked the Defense Production Act to bring sufficient personal protective equipment to front-line healthcare professionals, many of whom got sick and died due to their absence. He could have used the presidential pulpit to promote safety and health. He could have avoided super-spreader events and rallies, substituting remote, virtual campaigning in the interests of audience safety and public health. He chose otherwise and now not only his voters and the rest of us, but also he himself, his family, his aides and his political allies are reaping the consequences.
To say that the White House contact tracing effort after it became the global infection hot spot (more cases in one day than Vietnam, Taiwan, Yemen or New Zealand!) has been lacking is a gross understatement. This is concerning since the growing number of infected individuals who attended his events have been in contact with thousands of others. The 206 Trump donors who attended a New Jersey fundraiser with the president on September 30, disdaining both masks and physical distancing, as well as the many workers at Trump’s golf club who may have then been exposed, have been left hanging. And so the official policy of down-playing the virus and doing nothing to contain and mitigate it continues notwithstanding that the chief perpetrator of the botched coronavirus response contracted the disease.
Trump has been playing with fire. He belittles and sidelines scientists, doctors and public health experts, demands stunts and photo ops despite the dangers involved, and mocks people (including Joe Biden at their debate) for wearing masks. He’s been badly burned.
Transparency is not exactly a Trump administration byword. Had Bloomberg News not discovered and reported presidential aide Hope Hicks’s positive Covid test, one has to wonder if we would ever have found out that Trump was sick. Given the White House’s refusal to say when Trump last tested negative, it is likely that Trump knew he was sick when he went to the debate, his subsequent Minnesota rally and his New Jersey fundraiser. Otherwise, he would be eager to inform us of his test results, as he always has been in the past.
Another important point about the lack of transparency: all but one of the physicians who periodically emerged to brief the press and public about the president’s health are U.S. military officers who could be ordered what to say by their commander-in-chief.
While we may neutralize Covid-19 sometime in 2021 if we finally take the steps we should have taken nine months ago, we can never make up what we have lost in loved ones, jobs, income, assets, personal security, education, the maladies associated with lengthy isolation, businesses gone forever, shelter, and much more. The best we can do is take heed of the lessons the pandemic has taught us: that we must plan and prepare for existential crises and confront them responsibly as a government and as citizens.
It’s time for the anti-science, anti-facts mindset popular among millions of Americans to be shelved in favor of reality. Otherwise, we are destined to repeat this tragic affair and find that we are equally unprepared for the next time calamity strikes. The climate crisis, which is already upon us, cries out for an immediate governmental and global response before it consumes all of us if this attitude persists.
Voters have the opportunity to accomplish two essential objectives on November 3rd. (1) Send packing this dreadful crew that foisted much of this misfortune on us; and (2) Vote in a new team that will do what is necessary to get us out of this mess and back to normal.
October 9, 2020