Killing Our Humanity: A 12 step guide for how not to make a pandemic worse
To assist those wanting a more simple accounting of how President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Citizen recently released a fresh list of a dozen specific ways the president’s decisions and public pronouncements served to speed up the spread of the deadly virus.
The consumer rights group noted that while the death toll readies to pass the 100,000 person threshold in the United States, “the chaotic and incompetent response” of Trump—from his failure to prepare the nation for such a calamity in the first place to his repeated assault on scientific understanding and undermining the warnings of public health experts— has “fueled the spread of the coronavirus in the United States and beyond, causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths.”
In an online statement, Public Citizen listed the dozen failures of the president as follows:
- He didn’t prepare. For the first three years of his administration, he failed to take steps to prepare for a long-expected pandemic by expanding the inventory of critical medical supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile, strengthening the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and bolstering other critical components of our national public health system.
- He ignored warnings. For several weeks starting in early January, he ignored early warnings about the grave threat posed by the coronavirus outbreak, squandering precious time needed to implement proven measures that would have limited active community spread of the virus.
- He falsely assured the public. After the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the U.S., he repeatedly provided false assurances to the public that the coronavirus was contained and soon would disappear.
- He failed to mobilize manufacturers. Trump failed to broadly and rapidly invoke his authority under the Defense Production Act to ramp up the manufacturing of: Disposable masks, gowns, face shields and other personal protective equipment needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to health care workers, first responders, transportation workers and people employed in other essential occupations; Coronavirus test kits and supplies that are essential to detecting infected individuals and performing contact tracing; and Mechanical ventilators and other medical supplies for treating COVID-19 patients.
- He dragged his feet on curbing the spread of the virus. He delayed the development and implementation of federal social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines until widespread community transmission of COVID-19 was well underway.
- He failed on testing. He failed to order the development and implementation of a federally funded and coordinated plan for massively scaled-up testing, community tracing and quarantining of all infected individuals and their potentially infected contacts.
- He muzzled the experts. He sidelined and muzzled CDC staff who are public health experts in the management and containment of infectious disease outbreaks.
- He blocked reopening guidance. For several weeks, Trump blocked the release of detailed CDC guidance for how to safely reopen businesses.
- He spewed lies. At daily White House briefing for several weeks, he spewed false and misleading information as well as rosy projections about the spread of the pandemic that confused the public and undermined the efforts of state officials who have been forced to take the lead in responding to the pandemic without adequate federal support and resources.
- He touted dangerous, unproven drugs and remedies. He repeatedly touted the use of the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as “game-changing” treatments for COVID-19 despite the risk of potentially fatal adverse effects and the lack of any sound scientific evidence supporting such use. He even suggested crackpot ideas like injecting disinfectants to treat COVID-19.
- He rushed reopening. Almost immediately after his own task force issued guidelines for a gradual, stepwise approach for reopening businesses and relaxing stay-at-home restrictions, he encouraged governors to reopen businesses and roll back restrictions well before their states met the minimal criteria outlined in the guidelines or had adequate programs for testing and contact tracing. In states that ignored his overtures, he encouraged people to engage in mass protests of stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses.
- He discouraged the use of face masks. By refusing to wear a mask at public events, Trump has set a dangerous example for the rest of the country. The CDC recommends wearing a face mask in public where social distancing is difficult. Trump and other administration officials appear regularly without a mask, standing close to others.
Another national poll revealed that just 39 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic even as the president has consistently cast everyone from China to former President Barack Obama to the World Health Organization as the culprits behind the high rate of infections and death in the country.
While noting that it is impossible to ignore the broader failures and shortcomings of the U.S. healthcare, economic, and political system that make the United States uniquely ill-equipped to fight a pandemic, The Nation’s Jeet Heer earlier this month said the pandemic still ‘provides more than enough evidence to render a judgment on Trump as one of the worst presidents in American history.”
“The pandemic is sometimes compared to the 9/11 attack. But it’s a 9/11 where hundreds die every day. Nor is there any end in sight,” wrote Jeer. “The fall presidential election is crucial for getting rid of the failed leadership of Donald Trump that made this crisis much worse than it had to be.”