As of October 25, there have been 8,626,537 cases of coronavirus and more than 225,000 deaths from this disease. Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other leading epidemiologists declare we are heading in the wrong direction.
President Trump responded to this question with his usual lies about the country “rounding the corner” and also said, “We’re learning to live with it. We have no choice.” Vice President Biden retorted with, “He says that we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.” That exchange, after more than nine months of sickness and deaths, gives us a clear view of how these two very different candidates view the responsibility of forming the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In September we learned from Bob Woodward’s reporting that in early February Trump acknowledged to the reporter that the coronavirus was much deadlier than the flu. That discussion took place shortly after USA Today published an opinion piece by Biden in which he said, “To be blunt, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies have left us unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.” But throughout the month of February the president continued to minimize the coronavirus, tweeting statements like — “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” In late February Trump said publicly that doctors should treat COVID like the flu, which he claimed had an even higher fatality rate based on the numbers so far. Compare that to what Biden said at a Feb. 28 campaign rally in South Carolina: “Coronavirus is a serious public health challenge.”
By the beginning of March the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus had risen into the thousands, and Trump famously (and falsely) declared, “Anyone who wants a test can get a test.” Meanwhile, Vice President Biden was putting the finishing touches on his plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden plan called for a national public health response which included free testing and increased health care capacity combined with an economic response featuring comprehensive sick leave and aid to local and state governments. The day after Biden announced his plan, Trump finally declared a federal emergency. A week later, Trump confided in Woodward that he was downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus because he didn’t want to “create a panic.” Over three million people filed unemployment claims due to the pandemic during March.
In early April Trump promised the public that the coronavirus was going away, while privately sharing with Woodward that the virus is “horrible” and “unbelievable.” By the middle of that month, the US death toll exceeded the total number of US military personnel who died in the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan combined. As I wrote on April 23, the day after my aunt died from COVID-19, Republicans were already calling to reopen the government. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick showed his total lack of compassion by saying, “There are more important things than living” when asked about the dangers of reopening too soon.
On July 4, the president told the nation that 99% of coronavirus cases were totally harmless. Nine days later the death toll had risen to 136,298. By that time Trump had made mask wearing a political issue. Instead of setting an example for the nation, he mocked those (including VP Biden) who embraced mask wearing and social distancing.
Instead of the warmer weather chasing the coronavirus away, as Trump had promised it would, the summer saw another surge of COVID-19 cases. The Democratic Convention in August set an example for the nation with virtual speeches, mask wearing and social distancing. Presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, showed that they would fight the pandemic by putting science first if elected. A few days later the Republican Convention unfolded as a showcase of bad pandemic behavior, culminating in a mostly maskless, not socially distanced speech by Trump on the grounds of the White House.
In late September the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus reached a staggering 200,000. At this writing, in October, the president has not done anything to acknowledge the huge loss our country has suffered. No flags have been ordered to fly at half staff, nor has a national day of mourning been declared. Instead, he continuously congratulates himself for blocking many (but not all) visitors from China. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing he seems to have done right, although since thousands of infected visitors from China and Europe were allowed into the U.S. after the ban was instituted, many experts question its effectiveness. Even after contracting COVID-19 himself, Trump continues to ignore basic public health and medical advice and keeps declaring that the country has “rounded the corner.” As anyone paying attention knows, the case, hospitalization and death numbers are on the rise, not rounding any corners.
We are now just days away from the 2020 election. We all have the opportunity to decide who will be in charge of the pandemic response in 2021. Let’s try and speculate on what each future would hold. We don’t have to guess at what a Biden-Harris administration will do to deal with the coronavirus. Biden just released an updated plan which is available on his website. The science-based plan promises to use the expertise of public health professionals and will include scaling up our testing capability by investing in next-generation testing, implementing a national plan for manufacturing and fairly distributing PPE to every state, city, tribe and territory. The Biden-Harris plan also includes a carefully crafted approach to reopening schools and businesses throughout the country as well as a strategy to safely reopen the economy, all while protecting the health and lives of Americans.
Does President Trump have an equivalent, thoughtful plan for responding to the pandemic and fully reopening the country? Well, not really. He has spent much of his time on Twitter bashing the nation’s premier expert on epidemiology, Dr. Anthony Fauci. In his eagerness to prioritize reopening the economy, the president has decided to listen to Dr. Scott Atlas who agrees with his ideas. Unfortunately, Dr. Atlas is an expert in radiology, not epidemiology. While they have issued several denials, it is increasingly obvious that they want to reopen the country completely and rely on “herd immunity” to solve the coronavirus problem.
Herd immunity can be effectively used in conjunction with a vaccine. When a virus continually encounters vaccinated people who are immune from infection, it can’t spread, which protects people who are unable to take the vaccine for medical reasons. The perceived plan by Atlas and Trump, to encourage people to live normally when there is no vaccine available, could lead to millions of unnecessary deaths.
The choice is yours: Will you vote to prioritize the economy, or to protect American lives?
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