President Donald Trump has largely declined to stick to the facts and science while formulating a response to the Coronavirus. His decisions have been arbitrary and based on his own whims — in the early days and weeks of the outbreak, he proclaimed with no supporting evidence that the virus was nothing to be concerned about, and more recently, he’s been harping endlessly on the topic of reopening the economy and ending many social distancing measures, even though the necessary virus mitigation efforts are not in place to keep that from sparking another widespread outbreak. Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden sounded an alarm this week about the president’s behavior.
Noting a slew of so-called “epic failures” in areas including, as The Washington Post explains, “testing kits, ventilator supply, protective equipment for health workers and contradictory public health communication,” Frieden commented:
‘It’s mind-boggling, actually, the degree of disorganization… we’re not doing the things we need to be doing in April.’
And thus, more dangerous failures may be just around the corner yet again.
Lifting social distancing guidelines when they expire on the federal level at the end of April could constitute one of those dangerous failures. There are still, even now with months of the outbreak in the past, huge gaps in testing resources, and those gaps could sink any plan to safely reopen the economy. Just this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) called on the president to invoke the Defense Production Act to order the production of needed Coronavirus testing supplies, because even New York state currently can run only a few thousand tests a week. Private firms have been picking up a lot of the slack, but those labs can’t do it all.
The Post reports that a coalition of individuals outside of the federal government have been attempting to formulate a plan for safely moving forward without Trump’s already nonexistent assistance. Following governors’ leadership on stay-at-home orders, the publication explains:
‘[A] collection of governors, former government officials, disease specialists and nonprofits are pursuing a strategy that relies on the three pillars of disease control: Ramp up testing to identify people who are infected. Find everyone they interact with by deploying contact tracing on a scale America has never attempted before. And focus restrictions more narrowly on the infected and their contacts so the rest of society doesn’t have to stay in permanent lockdown.’
The White House has yet to develop any kind of apparent plan beyond crossing their fingers and hoping for the best when they decide to reopen the economy. Trump said at a press conference this week that “he will be using metrics in his mind to re-open,” as one reporter summarized — which is not exactly reassuring, since that’s the same press conference at which Trump seemed to fail to clearly understand that antibiotics don’t affect viruses.
President Trump says he has "absolute authority" to ease social distancing guidelines.
"I don't know that I have had a bigger decision," he said. "Hopefully it's going to be the right decision."
He points to his head & says he will be using metrics in his mind to re-open.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) April 10, 2020
Without appropriate testing and contact tracing measures in place around the U.S. when the economy re-opens, many more people could get sick and die than would otherwise. On Friday alone, the U.S. reported over 2,000 new Coronavirus deaths.
Trump: "Antibiotics used to solve every problem and now one of the biggest problems the world has is the germ has gotten to brilliant that the anti-antibiotic can't keep up with it." pic.twitter.com/FqYKdUEQmZ
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) April 10, 2020