Sunday, May 3, 2020

Why Trump Deserves Some of the Blame for Coronavirus Deaths in the U.S.

The president can't be blamed for coronavirus itself — but how he's reacted to the disease has resulted in numerous deaths already. 

As far as leadership goes, it's apparent that President Donald Trump is sorely lacking in the quality.

We knew this long ago, of course, but the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the many ways in which he has failed to his duties as president. In fact, he has done much to hurt the country during this crisis.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
But does Trump really deserve blame for the number of deaths that will come about the result of coronavirus? In some ways, we should temper any arguments that suggest as much. The president does not, for instance, bear responsibility for the pandemic's presence in the country.

However, while we should hold back outright blame toward Trump for this virus's death toll, how he has responded to and acted to it has had a detrimental effect on our lives — so much so that it's not an unfair assessment to state that Trump is directly responsible for some of the disease's more dire outcomes, including a high number of deaths in the U.S.

According to various sources, the White House was alerted to the presence of the disease in China as far back as November. Trump himself was alerted a dozen times about the severity of the disease in January and February, no less than a dozen times.

Armed with this information, the president did two things, one of which was good and the other that was incredibly negligent:
  • Trump closed travel from China. While he may deserve commendations for that, he did allow tens of thousands to return from China to the U.S., without a uniform screening process in place.
  • Trump then spent the remainder of time from that closure to the middle of March doing very little at all to prepare for the impending pandemic. In fact, he spent most of that time whining about others who were saying do more.
Indeed, Trump called criticisms of his lackadaisical approach to the disease a "new hoax" against him.

Meanwhile, it wasn't just politicians or the media telling the president he needed to do more. His own health experts were saying, after more than a dozen coronavirus cases were identified, that things were going to get worse. Trump took the opposite view, sometimes within the same press conferences as those warnings were given in, and said that the number of cases would be "close to zero" within a matter of days.

He continued to not take the virus seriously, up until March 13. On March 16, he finally pushed for social distancing measures to be implemented across the entire country:
My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible. Avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. Avoid discretionary travel. And avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts.
A day after that statement, Trump claimed, "I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."

It was great that Trump finally came to his senses on taking coronavirus seriously (though he's now prematurely pushing for ending social distancing). However, the disease doesn't have a "better late than never" response. Ultimately, the consequences of waiting too long to do something about COVID-19 have been staggering.

According to a pair of epidemiologist researchers, had Trump acted just one week sooner — had he stopped calling coronavirus and reactions to his inaction a "new hoax" against him — close to 37,000 American deaths could have been avoided during this crisis.

In that way, yes, Trump is responsible for many thousands of deaths in this country. He'll be responsible for more, too, if he continues to push for "reopening" America too soon.

Social distancing works, as does extensive testing of the populace. We know this because there's examples to look to, like New Zealand and South Korea, for guidance on how we should behave.

Trump doesn't appear willing to emulate those ideas, acting instead on what he believes will be best for his own political futures. That sort of thinking needs to be abandoned completely right now.

The president needs to stop thinking about his reelection, and put the nation's interests ahead of his own. It's unfortunate, however, that in all likelihood, he's probably going to do just the opposite — and more Americans will suffer because of it.

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