Richardt Stormsgaard: The Trump virus
Back in January public health authorities implored Trump to issue executive orders for emergency production of ventilators, PPEs, and the necessary components for testing and tracking the infections. Trump had issued 169 previous executive orders but refused to issue any such orders experts deemed necessary for a strong federal effort to combat the pandemic, and effectively sabotaged federal and state health responses.
He declared the COVID-19 virus a political hoax fabricated to derail his reelection efforts, he ridiculed the use of masks, and he consistently pressured states to close too late and when infections stabilized to open too early. He promoted dangerous alternative treatments, and he demoted competent health care experts when they disputed his false claims. A recent Cornell University study concluded that out of almost 40,000 English language snippets of global coronavirus misinformation more than one-third could be traced back directly to Trump’s denials, misstatements, and outright lies. Not just Americans were swayed by the falsehoods, but thousands hit the streets in Berlin and Melbourne protesting the restrictions imposed by their governments.
Our health care system is rated best in the world to deal with a global pandemic, yet with 4% of the global population we have more than 20% of deaths worldwide. According to the Wall Street Journal on September 9, 190,000 Americans had died from COVID-19 so “Our World In Data” compared our death rates to those of other advanced countries:
84,000 Americans out of the 190,000 dead on September 9 would still be alive if the U.S. had the same death rate as the European Union. 109,000 Americans out of the 190,000 dead would still be alive if the US had the same death rate as Canada. Experts projected 300,000 American deaths by the end of this year so out of those 300,000 dead Americans more than 172,000 would have been alive if they had been living in Canada. 179,000 out of the 190,000 Americans dead on September 9 would still be alive if the U.S. had the same death rate as Australia. 185,000 Americans out of the 190,000 Americans dead would still be alive on Sept. 9 if the US had the same death rate as Japan.
On Feb. 28 Trump said, “It is going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” On Sept. 16 he stated, “I really believe we’re rounding the corner, and I believe that strongly.” The previous day the U.S. had counted 50,956 new virus cases and 1,276 deaths. Canada four days earlier had reported zero deaths.
Even as U.S. infections break new records, and experts now have upped their estimate to 400,000 deaths by Feb. 1, Trump still insists the pandemic is ending. Trump promised vaccines developed at warp-speed, and according to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has largely abandoned other efforts to stem the infections. In a best-case scenario vaccines could be widely available by the middle of 2021, but most likely no more effective than current flue vaccines, with almost half of Americans unwilling to even take a vaccine. If the vaccines are deemed unsafe or cannot cause immunity in people the U.S. will be hurtling toward herd immunity with millions of deaths. Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters still refuse to wear masks that have proved effective around the world while our preventable death tally climbs into the hundreds of thousands.
On Sept. 18 Dr. Redfield, the director of the CDC, said, “If Americans wore face masks for several weeks … we would bring this pandemic under control … because there is scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense … I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because it may be 70%. And if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me … This face mask will.”
Like Trump, his debate coach Chris Christie contracted COVID-19 around the time of the first debate, but unlike Trump Christie gained insights from the experience. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Christie wrote, “When you get this disease, it hits you how easy it is to prevent … wear cloth over our mouth and nose … avoid crowds. These minor inconveniences can save your life, your neighbors and the economy. Seldom has so little been asked for so much benefit … the message must be delivered consistently and honestly by media, religious leaders and public servants … they have a duty to get the message out.”
Richardt Stormsgaard lives in Nevada City.
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