A group of nurses assembled outside the White House this Tuesday in protest of the Trump administration’s failures to assemble the medical equipment needed to safely and effectively confront the Coronavirus outbreak. At least 50 nurses around the U.S. are among the tens of thousands of Americans who have died from the Coronavirus, and the group in D.C. this week called on the administration to immediately secure the personal protective equipment that is needed for safe virus response through means including the broad invocation of the Defense Production Act, which President Trump has so far used very sparingly.
One nurse who was at the White House told NBC News:
‘We are here because our colleagues are dying. I think that right now people think of us as heroes, but we’re feeling like martyrs.’
The president’s own rhetoric has cast figures like nurses as heroes through means like his insistence on referring to the Coronavirus as the “invisible enemy.” At other times, the president and his advisers have spoken of taking on the virus as if the pandemic response is like a war effort. The problem with ascribing some kind of grand inevitability to the virus outbreak is that doing so absolves the president and his team of responsibility for their failures and leaves nurses on the front lines, still struggling.
The nurses’ union National Nurses United insisted this week:
‘NNU is calling on Congress to mandate the DPA’s use to produce the equipment and supplies health care workers need to care for COVID-19 patients as well as to conduct mass testing that is required to control the spread of the virus.’
The union’s executive director Bonnie Castillo shared on Twitter:
‘NNU union nurses are outside the White House to honor the courageous RNs who have lost their lives on the frontlines of the #COVID19 crisis, and to demand protections for the living. No more nurse deaths!’
Happening NOW: NNU union nurses are outside the White House to honor the courageous RNs who have lost their lives on the frontlines of the #COVID19 crisis, and to demand protections for the living.
No more nurse deaths!
Facebook Live: https://t.co/CDy7r40OTe
— Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) April 21, 2020
The New York State Nurses Association took their own advocacy for similar aims a step further — this week, they sued the New York Department of Health and two hospitals in the state over nurses getting left in unsafe working conditions. New York has far more Coronavirus deaths than any other individual state at this point in the outbreak.
Trump claims that a report from his own administration that hospitals don't have adequate testing and supplies is wrong, and then he accuses the HHS IG of being involved in a political plot against him. pic.twitter.com/iqQ7FbXTD8
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) April 6, 2020
Amidst the crisis, Trump has decidedly not prioritized issues like the nurses’ concerns. Instead, he has prioritized his public image and more specific items like television ratings for his White House press conferences about the Coronavirus, which he bragged about again this Tuesday.
No, people getting on planes aren’t being tested.
No, Trump didn’t inherit old tests.
No, there’s no evidence of bias by the HHS deputy IG.
No, it’s not true Obama barely even noticed H1N1.
No, China didn’t just start spending money in the US. https://t.co/t6e0VDM7EB
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) April 7, 2020
At other points, Trump has actively contested the duly reported facts of the personal protective equipment shortages that health care workers have faced around the country. He suggested that a report from the inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services outlining the basic facts of personal protective equipment shortages was fake news.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius commented in response:
‘I’ve never seen a leader who is incapable of admitting a mistake and this President has done that from the very beginning. Unfortunately, right now that refusal is costing lives.’
The death toll, no matter Trump’s self-confidence, is fast approaching 45,000 in the U.S. as of Tuesday afternoon.
"I've never seen a leader who is incapable of admitting a mistake and this President has done that from the very beginning. Unfortunately, right now that refusal is costing lives." – Former Health and Human Services Secy. Kathleen Sebelius on Trump's response to the HHS IG report pic.twitter.com/xVkIWYXyb5
— CNN (@CNN) April 7, 2020