Editor’s Note: Sources included at end of letter
It’s time to take a hard look at the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For starters, consider that the United States represents 4% of the world’s population. Yet it has, as of June 11, 27% of the world’s deaths from COVID-19.
The first COVID-19 case in South Korea occurred in January—about the same time as the first case in the United States. South Korea immediately began widespread testing and contact tracing, and nearly total lockdown of its population. Its rapid and comprehensive response accounts for much of the 60-fold difference in death rates between them and the United States (5 per million vs. 356 per million).
Germany, which shares borders with seven other countries and has a population density 10 times that of the United States, lagged behind South Korea, but still kept the death rate down to a third that of ours (106 per million vs. 356 per million).
In November, U.S. intelligence analysts were already reporting the potential for a “cataclysmic event” originating in China. In early January, Americans working within the World Health Organization were sending signals back to officials in the United States that a dangerous epidemic in China was afoot. But early this year, President Trump was taking the assurances of the ruthless Chinese dictator Xi Jinping over warnings from within our own government. It really doesn’t matter where such a highly contagious virus would come from—China, the UK, Greece, Kazakhstan—once on U.S. soil it would explode exponentially. When you have 15 known cases, you have at least 30 other cases you don’t yet know about, and half a day later you have 60 more cases, and so on. That’s how you get to 117,000 deaths in five months.
Teamwork is what you want when you are fighting a pandemic. Instead of uniting the country as one team, the president laid the responsibility for fighting COVID-19 on individual states. On March 13, he said he didn’t take responsibility “at all” for a lack of testing kits. At all. The states were forced to compete with each other—so instead of having one big team with a national arsenal fighting a common enemy, we had 50 teams vying with each other for resources while the common enemy marched across the country.
When militant groups bearing firearms came to statehouses to protest lockdowns and the wearing of masks, President Trump applauded their menacing tactics as freedom-loving. In fact, wearing masks is not “political correctness,” as alleged by the president. It’s a public safety issue. The masks are meant not so much to protect the wearer against contagion, they are meant to protect others in case the wearer is infected—as are many carriers without knowing it. Analogously, speed limits are a public safety measure made into law. Who believes that we should be free to race around on public highways at 90 mph?
The president’s refusal to wear a mask in public says it all. Instead of modeling what people should do to protect others, he is modeling that if you want to show you’re a tough guy, it’s OK to disregard the safety of others.
I am proud to say when I go to public places where folks mingle in Greene County these days, most people are now wearing masks of one kind or another. In general, Greene County citizens are as public-spirited as anywhere in the country. It’s too bad we have a leader who tries to “lead” by division instead of unity.
• Worldwide data on COVID-19 pandemic: www.worldometers.info/coronavirus
• U.S. intelligence warnings of danger in China as early as November 2019: https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/intelligence/491712-us-intelligence-warned-in-november-that-virus-spreading
• Dana Milbank of Washington Post, info on U.S. health officials in WHO telling Trump admin of pandemic danger: www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/17/trump-tells-damnable-murderous-lie