Trump’s lethal failure to face the COVID pandemic. Part 3: He took no responsibility

COVID-19, courtesy of CDC

In March, Trump was still in denial: “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it,” claiming “It came out of China, and we heard about it. And made a good move: We closed it down; we stopped it. Otherwise — the head of CDC said last night that you would have thousands of more problems if we didn’t shut it down very early. That was a very early shutdown, which is something we got right. But according to a May New York Times article, if Trump had instigated a lockdown earlier, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. Trump was busy calling the media “

In March 2020 Trump continued to claim there would be a vaccine very soon, and pressured manufacturers to speed up the process. He visited the NIH Vaccine Research Center. He also repeatedly bragged how well he was doing, baselessly saying that it would go away. Yet on 11 March the WHO declared a pandemic, the first caused by a coronavirus.

The WHO said there were more deaths and severe disease from COVID-19 than flu. Unlike flu, people have built up no immunity to COVID-19. It raised the alert to ‘very high’.

Mike Pence claimed that “Any American can be tested, no restrictions, subject to doctor’s orders.” The CDC did loosen restrictions. Soon afterwards Pence admitted there were not enough tests to meet anticipated demand. While he said they would focus on inspection of nursing homes, which were particularly vulnerable, the administration relaxed Obama-era rules.

Early in March the Trump administration shut down its new China and Hong Kong COVID Procurement Service and started procuring N95 Respirators to Support Healthcare Workers.

Feeling Trump’s $2.5 billion request was inadequate, Congress passed a $8.3B bill to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

After the WHO declared a pandemic, Trump suspended all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. This caused chaos, with many Americans rushing to fly home, and massive lines at American airports, potentially spreading the disease far and wide. Later, he announced a suspension of entry from persons from Mexico and Canada

The Dow suffered another massive plunge, which apparently led Trump to take the disease more seriously, at least in private, while still minimizing it publicly and claiming he had done a great job. He finally canceled superspreader rallies for a time and appointed a “testing czar”. HHS made an initial order for $4.8 million of N95 masks from 3M. He declared a national emergency, freeing up $50 billion.

I’m an expert, trust me. Really, Donald?

Trump doubled down on his imaginary science credentials. asking if a flu vaccine would work against COVID-19. In his opinion the WHO’s death rate of 3.4% was a false number. He estimated way under 1%. He grossly overestimated the number of people who died of flu. He suggested people go to work (he denied it later).

Visiting the CDC he opined, “I like this stuff. I really get it”. “People here are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’”

Such was Trump’s influence that 68 percent of Democrats were concerned that they or someone they knew would be infected, but only 35 percent of Republicans

In mid March he touted chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin. People died as a result. It also led to shortages for the people whose conditions required hydroxychloroquine. Trump took hydroxychloroquine advice from a host from Fox News, which produces the most uninformed listeners.

Despite federal guidelines, Trump suggested ‘sanitizing’ and reusing medical masks. He also denied the necessity for large numbers of ventilators.

Trump complained that the tests he had inherited were obsolete. Apparently he did not realize that every disease needs a different test and a different vaccine.

“No, I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Asked if he was to blame for the lag in testing, Trump replied, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all.”

He claimed Google was building a site to help people find coronavirus tests, but this was news to Google. The administration recommended that schooling should be from home, groups should be limited to 10, and people should avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, etc. He then asserted, with a straight face, “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

Trump told governors to try getting ventilators themselves, and began a new pattern of blaming governors by saying that Cuomo had to do more. He wanted the governors to appreciate him. He also blamed China, though he complained when called out on it, and called it the ‘Chinese virus’. He also often blamed the Obama administration for shortages. States began importing supplies, which the Feds sometimes seized, or outbid the states for. Competition meant States paid many times normal prices for medical equipment.

Talking to Bob Woodward on 10 March (though it was not published until September), Trump said, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” and “We had a choice to make. Close everything up and save potentially millions of lives — you know, hundreds of thousands of lives — or don’t do anything and watch — and look at body bags every day being taken out of apartment buildings…” He knowingly put the economy before lives, saying, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” He wanted America ‘opened up and raring to go’ by Easter (that projection kept slipping). By the end of March, Over 10 million Americans had applied for unemployment benefits.

Trump signed the Defense Production Act ‘in case we need it’, but he was in no hurry to use it. Shortages of tests and PPE continued.

On 27 March Trump signed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package into law. He also signed an order telling GM to make ventilators, but GM were not told, and said it did not change their plans. On 2 April he invoked the Defense Production Act for ventilator equipment and N95 masks. To the surprise of the States, and contrary to the Strategic National Stockpile mission, Jared Kushner opined, “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.” The national stockpile website was hastily edited. Trump abdicated responsibility to the States on giving nurses and doctors what they needed.

Due to Trump’s lack of leadership, the man in charge of the coronavirus supply chain did not know where anything was, and profiteers out-hustled the good guys in the mask market.

On 5 April 2020 Trump privately admitted to Bob Woodward that for older people, “your life is pretty much over”. By then, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in the United States.

On 7 April Trump turned his attention to blaming the WHO and threatened to defund it. On that day it became public that blacks were disproportionately affected by the coronavirus (as they are by virtually all health issues)g. Since that meant ‘blue states’ were mostly affected, Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan was abandoned and conservatives renewed their calls to reopen the economy. Kushner took charge of coronavirus response behind the scenes, but it was a disaster

Thus on 9 April ended the first 100 days since the WHO was first notified of what was to become known as COVID-19. The USA had suffered 466,834 cases and 18,024 deaths. The supply situation was in disarray. So was testing. Publicly, Donald Trump was nearly always in denial, so the public was unprepared for and often skeptical of a pandemic. Millions were unemployed. The stock market had suffered several shocks. And despite his claims, his ‘science’ was erroneous, his predictions way off the mark and he bore a lot of the responsibility; his was the blame. People died. And the situation was about to get worse.

To see far more instances of Trump downplaying the virus, blaming others and falsely boasting about how well he is doing and how everything is under control, as well as what others are saying and doing, please click here.

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Sue Nethercott

Sue Nethercott

Open University BA, UMIST MSc, OU BSc Environmental Studies. Interests: environment, COVID19. Double #ostomate. Thom Hartmann’s newsletter editor. Views my own.