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Frederick Hall: Trump’s failings in COVID-19 response

Other Voices
Frederick Hall

The coronavirus is indeed an emergency for the world — not just the U.S. To become the deadliest outbreak in recorded history, it will have to outdo the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Why was it called Spanish? Because the government of Spain was the only one to speak of the proverbial elephant in the room: the deaths of 50 to 100 million people around the world.

Why was it the deadliest? Because the other countries — including the U.S. — censored the news. The response needed in order to save lives couldn’t be mustered because the true nature of the catastrophe didn’t officially exist.

History set out to repeat itself in China: The death rate soared as the government denied the problem. And history did repeat … until the government faced up to the reality. Then it invoked very tight restrictions on people’s actions conducive to spreading infection. The death rate reversed itself and fell as sharply as it had risen. China conformed to prior history — but later wrote new history, demonstrating to the world how to save lives.

What did Trump learn from that history? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He took quick action instead to protect his status. Worse, he lured people to their deaths by proclaiming at a rally that, “This is a new hoax!” Trump didn’t need to learn to deny truth; it is his consistent M.O.

Fifteen Americans had tested positive by January. Now, let’s review — in the context of China’s history — what Trump told the American people in February.

Feb. 2: “We’ve pretty much shut it down, coming from China …”

Feb. 3: “In April it supposedly dies with the hotter weather …”

Feb. 14: “When it gets warm, that has historically been able to kill the virus. People are getting better; we’re all getting better.”

Feb. 26: “With the 15, within a couple of days it’s going to be down close to zero.”

Feb. 27: “It’s like a miracle; one day it will disappear …”

Feb. 28: “… and you’ll be fine.”

Feb. 28 was the day he pronounced the pandemic a hoax. The February patient count due to the “hoax” was 323.

Then, in March:

March 2: ”We’re going to have vaccines, I think, relatively soon.”

March 3: “Not only the vaccines but the therapies. Therapies is sort of another word for cure.”

March 10: “It’s really working out, and a lot of good things are happening.”

March 11: “We are responding with great speed and professionalism.”

March 12: “It’ll go away.”

March 13: “I don’t take responsibility.”

March 15: “No, we’ll all be great; we’ll be so good.”

March 16: “It came up so suddenly.”

March 17: “This is a pandemic. I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. All you had to do was look at other countries.”

[The death toll reached 1,347 on March 27.]

How are we to assess this history? First, his public statements disconnect completely from reality. Second, his “leadership” puts us all in mortal danger. He claimed on March 17 that he knew long before then that it was a pandemic. That was just two days after saying, “We’ll all be great.” Really? Coronavirus Taskforce immunologist Anthony Fauci warns of a second round.

Which of those is the lie? Trump’s prediction of packed churches at Easter shows his utter disregard of reality and of his own self-contradiction. The U.S. now has more cases than either China or Italy. So what if he can’t speak truth that tarnishes his massive ego? The world and us be damned!

I’ve presented no proof that he lies. But does that matter? We are in equal danger whether he really didn’t “look at other countries” or looked and ignored what he saw. What if he runs an administration that doesn’t present the truth to him? It doesn’t matter. All assure terrible decisions on desperately important issues … both domestic and international.

Now I’m going to say something unexpected. The pandemic is a hoax but only in the same sense that the Mueller investigation was a hoax. Both are Trump’s signature dodge: create a flurry to distract public attention from the facts.

Give him credit as a showman (but never forget that he clings tenaciously to statements proven false). Let it be a lesson for the future that our young people — with the truth of the lethal possibilities buried under Trump’s insistent claims of safety — flocked to the beaches in groups.

And please don’t forget: ”I don’t take responsibility.”

Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.


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