Donald Trump has downplayed the risk of the coronavirus since the beginning of this pandemic. As a result, the situation facing New York City, and which now faces the nation, has grown beyond control and has resulted in a nation in lockdown.
Because of Trump, we are stuck in our homes, isolated from our families. There was ample opportunity to avoid this through preparation, testing, and communication.
I see three primary issues with his response:
- Messaging - Trump downplayed the severity, risk, and even existence of a spreading virus outbreak
- Preparation - Two months of preparation were missed, leaving us far less prepared and more vulnerable than ever.
- Misinformation - The misinformation and muddled messaging has led to ad-hoc, disorganized, and grassroots efforts to contain this virus, leading to even more destruction.
Since the outbreak in China, U.S. intelligence reports included dire warnings of the possibility of a global pandemic. He ignored them. Though he didn’t need anything impacting his economy. Yet he didn’t even need special briefings - anyone could see the news coming from China.
His initial messaging was destructive. I believe without clear leadership and messaging from the president, many people across the country, including Florida and Louisiana, did not take this seriously. Louisiana is already now a hotspot. I hope Florida isn’t next.
I’ve seen positive opinions about the president’s response. They are missing the big picture. You can’t judge his late and obvious responses to the crisis. You must judge his inaction in the pivotal months leading up to this.
By March, testing between South Korea and and even Italy, vs the US was stark.
Below is a rough timeline of the Trump response to the coronavirus:
- Jan 20 - The first case of covid was detected in the U.S.
- Jan 22 - Trump made his first public response: “We have it totally under control”
- Jan 31 - Banned travel from China
- Feb 25 - “They think it’s a problem that’s going to go away”
- Feb 26th - “We’re going very substantially down, not up”
- Feb 27th - “One day, like a miracle, it will disappear”
- Feb 28th - Called democratic response “a hoax”
- Feb 28th - Said it would “just disappear… maybe go away, we’ll see what happens..”
- Feb 31st - Total of 500 tests completed by end of February
- March 1st - First case in NY from a woman traveling from Iran
- March 6 - “…Anybody that needs a test can get a test’
- March 9th - Tweeted “The Fake News Media & their partner, The Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power to inflame the Coronavirus situation.”
- March 9th - Tweets comparison to common flu
- March 13th - National Emergency Declaration
- March 24th - As cases skyrocket, the president states everything will reopen by Easter. Asked why that date, he responds “We thought it was a beautiful time”
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of this timeline by Snopes
After Trump’s speech to the nation, Ashia Jha, director of Global Health Institute, stated “Trump administration’s messaging so far as “deeply disturbing,” adding that it’s “left the country far less prepared than it needs to be for what is a very substantial challenge ahead.”
New York and New York City have been left on it’s own. Governor Cuomo and Mayor Blasio have urged the federal government to help obtain the critical hospital beds, protective equipment, and ventilators it needs to ensure the hospital system is not overrun. They are losing that battle.
We are now playing a huge game of catch-up. On March 20th, Trump approved a major disaster declaration for New York. This opens up FEMA to create mobile testing centers, disinfect public facilities, provide materials, and create new hospitals by retrofitting existing buildings.
Yet, on March 24th, the president declared he’d like to see the economy ‘raring to go’ by Easter. Let me remind you that on 3⁄16 there were 320 cases in NYC. By 3⁄27 there were over 15,000. The exponential growth is real and coming to you. This will not be a short ride.
It’s clear that Trump is not concerned about public health. He’s concerned about his reelection. He ignored and downplayed the severity. He ignored his own experts. He continues to cause harm through his handling of it.
I would suspect he’ll continue to paint this as a ‘china virus’, playing into his base. He’ll blame others. He’ll take no responsibility.
Perhaps a silver lining to this pandemic is its impact on Trump’s reelection chances. This gives me hope and satisfaction in quarantine.