The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that the overall U.S. death toll from the Coronavirus could hit 100,000 by June 1. Meanwhile, a model from the University of Washington projects that the U.S. could end up with over 147,000 Coronavirus deaths by August 4. Despite these staggeringly grim measures, the willfully oblivious Trump administration has been insisting that they’ve done a great job with responding to the crisis. Over the weekend, top officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and presidential trade adviser Peter Navarro wheeled out a new list of scapegoats for the deaths, including pre-existing conditions among Americans and supposedly dismal responses from the CDC — which is led, just to be clear, by a Trump appointee.
During an appearance on CNN, Azar commented:
‘Unfortunately the American population is… very diverse. “It is a population with significant unhealthy comorbidities that do make many individuals in our communities, in particular African American, minority communities particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease health disparities and disease comorbidities — and that is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we certainly do need to address.’
If a patient with pre-existing conditions had never been exposed to the virus in the first place, then those conditions would never even have had the chance to affect disease outcomes. The president’s team could have helped ensure that the virus spread at a markedly lower rate through means like early demands for social distancing and rigorous implementation of testing and care for those who contracted the virus, but they did not. At the end of February, Trump was still calling virus concern a “hoax” — and separately, the White House is also still arguing in a court case in favor of throwing out Obamacare, including its protections for people pre-existing conditions.
Meanwhile, during an appearance on NBC, Navarro — who has no public health experience — said:
‘Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space — really let the country down with the testing. Not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that set us back.’
A senior CDC official commented to CNN:
‘This administration has shown time and time again that it has a problem with science. We are giving them science and they don’t seem to want it.’
It’s incredible that they’re trying to deflect blame for their own failures. Trump, in the early days of the pandemic, could have used the provisions of the Defense Production Act to compel the production of tests in the private sector. He could have appointed an individual who had singular oversight control of the medical supply chain, including tests. Instead, months into the crisis, Trump was still complaining that states were asking the federal government for help at all. Maryland ended up getting half a million Coronavirus tests from South Korea.
Next on the agenda is lifting social distancing measures and reopening the economy. There are already worrying signs about the persistence of the virus. Just a few days ago, Texas recorded its overall highest single-day increase in cases.