Trump’s response to COVID-19 is sickening

Kate Stadler, Staff Writer

Cedric Chan

“The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” president Donald Trump tweeted more than a month ago. “We are in contact with everyone and all relevant counties. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

Trump has written dozens of grammatically incorrect tweets like this, touting both his and the United States’ supposed superiority in handling the coronavirus pandemic. The truth is, Trump has been addressing the crisis with a lack of leadership and organization that’s further endangering our country.

Rather than creating an effective strategy to hinder the spread of the virus just as it entered the country, Trump closed borders and made baseless promises, claiming that on Thursday, February 27 that “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” He also downplayed the risks of the virus and ignored the advice of experts, giving the country a false sense of security. As recently as Monday, March 9, Trump compared COVID-19 to the common flu, implying in one tweet it was more dangerous than the novel coronavirus.

His information is factually incorrect. According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 currently has a global death rate of about 3.4 percent, while the seasonal flu is less than 1 percent. In fact, the coronavirus mortality rate is higher for the elderly and those with respiratory issues, as they are especially susceptible to the disease. Plus, the coronavirus is highly infectious and has an incubation period of up to 14 days, making it easy to transmit unknowingly to others, specifically those in the high-risk category. Trump cannot pretend everything is fine when the US has reported over 23,000 deaths, as of Monday, April 13, due to the virus and experts say the worst is yet to come.

The U.S. was nowhere near ready for a pandemic, especially since, in 2018, Trump disbanded a section of the National Security Council meant to plan for pandemics. This sector would have established policies to fight COVID-19 in an effective manner. Beth Cameron, a former director of this sector, stated that dissolving this unit contributed to the “sluggish domestic response” by the Trump administration. Before the virus had even surfaced, Trump had already weakened the country’s response to it.

He even placed vice president Mike Pence in charge of dealing with the virus, despite his questionable handling of a past health emergency—an HIV outbreak—when he was governor of Indiana. Although needle exchange programs were widely suggested to combat the outbreak, Pence resisted and even criminalized them. Many say that Pence’s response worsened the outbreak. 

Although Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, March 13, finally acknowledging the severity of the pandemic, his false messaging had already done its damage. The severe measures we are taking now should have been taken earlier to prevent further sickness and deaths. 

As Trump came under fire for diminishing the threat of the virus, he blamed everyone but himself. He blamed the press for fueling panic about the virus and blamed Democrats for making it seem like he was handling the crisis terribly. Still, he has refused to take accountability for his administration’s shortcomings, blatantly claiming, “I do not take responsibility,” when asked about COVID-19 testing kit shortages.

Trump even blamed China for the virus itself, calling it on multiple occasions the “Chinese Virus,” both in tweet and speech form. Not only is this label racially offensive and inaccurate, but it has also inflamed anti-Asian sentiments. According to Politico, there have been increased incidents of discrimination toward Asians in the wake of the pandemic. CBS News White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang even said that a White House official “referred to Coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face.”

It’s also clear that Trump is focused on preserving his image than protecting his constituents. He refused already-made tests from the World Health Organization, some speculating to reduce the amount of cases in the U.S. or to boost the stock market with American-made tests. He’s gone from diminishing the virus’s threat to acknowledging it, then back to belittling it.

On Tuesday, March 24, Trump said he wanted the economy open and “raring to go” by Easter, hoping to salvage the stock market. After all, the stock market is his calling card: when people ask how his presidency is going, he points to it. And if the stock market keeps tanking as it is, it won’t look good for Trump’s reelection. He wants to fix that, no matter the cost. That means throwing blame, spreading false information and forwarding conflicting narratives all in an attempt to save face and the stock market. Trump is so focused on himself that the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine he constantly promotes is not even in the name of public health; it’s for his own personal wealth. He owns a stake in the French company that produces it. It’s obvious that Trump is more concerned about himself than the American public.

It’s understandable that one would be conflicted about shutting all, or even parts, of a country down. Jobs will be lost, and people will suffer financially—it’s up to the government to mitigate that effect as much as possible. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo faced the same dilemma but chose to shut his state down, placing everyone under a shelter-in-place order. In a statewide address, he said that he could not assign a monetary value to peoples’ lives. Lives had to be saved, period.

Saving lives should be a country’s—and a president’s—top priority. Trump should be emphasizing the importance of “flattening the curve” and lessening the rate of infection as much as possible. We should be doing everything we can to make sure hospitals aren’t overwhelmed more than they already are. On the government’s side of things, it needs to provide hospitals with the safety equipment they need so they can continue saving lives without risking their own. The Trump administration has said it’s taking steps to provide ventilators and safety equipment to hospitals all over the country, but has given no definite answer as to how supplies will be distributed. The government needs to provide leadership and a consistent narrative during this time of crisis instead of forcing states to compete for resources.

 The country is divided over its response to COVID-19, and it shouldn’t be.