Other questions to consider might be: Do you want to learn that there are no available tests for Coronavirus when you realize you are exhibiting symptoms? Do you want your doctor to have to treat you for coronavirus even if he does not have protective gear? I can guess your answers to these questions.
Okay, I admit that I’m livid. There are over 21,000 cases of the coronavirus surging in the U.S. as of March 22, 2020. There are dwindling basic medical supplies, as well as not enough test kits. Physicians and other medical personnel lack necessary equipment to keep themselves safe, to test patients, and to treat patients.
The president has the ability to call for more aggressive action. He could enact the Defense Production Act for mobilization efforts, but he chooses not to do. Why? Because some companies are voluntarily stepping up? Is this a bit late? The president has said that he wants to keep a free market for pricing.
He is putting profit above human life.
In the United States, more than 400 people have already died, and there is a lack of crucial gear and protective equipment. Just in the last week, Advocate hospitals in the Chicago area set up drive-thru testing sites, but they have already been suspended after only a few days due to a national shortage. If you are Tom Hanks or play for the NBA or a Senator, you can likely get tested but that is not the case across the country.
From the onset of the coronavirus, Mr. Trump has sent many conflicting signals about how he will handle crisis. Recently, when he was asked about the surgical masks’ scarcity, he replied that masks don’t always need to be thrown away, but can be sanitized, saying, “We have very good liquids for doing this.”
Mr. Trump attempted to deny the seriousness of the virus from the start:
Feb. 7 (tweet): ”… as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.”
Feb. 10: “I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine.”
Feb. 14: “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.”
Feb. 19: “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine.”
Feb. 24 (tweet): “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Feb. 25: “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better. … As far as what we’re doing with the new virus, I think that we’re doing a great job.”
U.S. doctors are well aware of this disaster and fearing they will not have needed resources are asking the question: “Who will get saved and who will not?” These are not decisions they want to make.
Feb. 26: “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low. … When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
Feb. 28: “I think it’s really going well. … We’re prepared for the worst, but we think we’re going to be very fortunate.”
Feb. 28: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Feb. 28: “This is their new hoax.”
March 4: “Some people will have this at a very light level and won’t even go to a doctor or hospital, and they’ll get better. There are many people like that.”
March 9 (tweet): “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. [sic] At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
March 10: “And it hit the world. And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
March 11: “I think we’re going to get through it very well.”
March 12: “It’s going to go away. ... The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.”
March 15: “This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over.”
March 16: “If you’re talking about the virus, no, that’s not under control for any place in the world.”
March 17: “I’ve always known this is a, this is a real, this is a pandemic … I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
March 18: But it’s a pandemic. We knew it was a pandemic long before anybody else did. It’s a pandemic, and there’s no difference in what we said before and what we’re saying now.”
The president has been much more interested in the economy and therefore has vacillated about the coronavirus and its potential harm to the American public. Currently, this denial is no longer possible. This grave danger to citizens deserves a president who listens to public health officials and keeps them safe. That means ordering resources made as quickly as possible.
Medical professionals are facing a critical shortage of testing swabs, protective masks, surgical gowns, and hand sanitizer. In Italy, doctors have been forced to decide who gets medical care and who gets a respirator, or essentially who has a chance to live and who may die. There are 5,476 deaths in Italy of just under 60,000 cases. U.S. doctors are well aware of this disaster and fearing they will not have needed resources are asking the question: “Who will get saved and who will not?” These are not decisions they want to make. New York has issued dire predictions and warned about dwindling necessary supplies.
There is one source for supplies that has been tapped. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), created in 1999, has medical supplies and life-saving pharmaceuticals in warehouses in secret locations all over the United States. They are to be used for chemical, radiological, biological or nuclear attacks. However, the pre-packed and transport-ready containers cannot supply what is needed for COVID-19. The 2009 H1N1 outbreak depleted supplies that have not been restocked, according to Charles Johnson, president of the International Safety Equipment Association. It is believed that the SNS has 30 million simple surgical masks and 12 million more protective N95 masks, when 300 million masks are needed to properly test for Coronavirus.
Trump downplayed the seriousness of COVID-10 from the start to keep nervous citizens calm, but he created a much more dangerous situation. Even today, there are people far removed from reality having listened to the president downplaying the seriousness of this pandemic.
Former Milwaukee county sheriff and ex-Fox News regular David Clarke recently tweeted this: “GO INTO THE STREETS FOLKS. Visit bars, restaurants, shopping malls, CHURCHES and demand that your schools re-open. NOW! If government doesn’t stop this foolishness…STAY IN THE STREETS. END GOVERNEMNT [sic] CONTROL OVER OUR LIVES. IF NOT NOW, WHEN? THIS IS AN EXPLOITATION OF A CRISIS.”
The president’s behavior and remarks regarding coronavirus have generated and welcomed this kind of reaction. Remember, he said in February that the virus would “go away” and he expected a “miracle.” He has never been very interested in learning about complicated issues. He is publicly disdainful of knowledge and indifferent to facts, but at this point his ignorance could cost you your life. Demand that the president enacts the Defense Production Act.
Ellen Birkett Lindeen
Ellen Birkett Lindeen, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is an Emeritus Professor of English at Waubonsee Community College where she taught Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution and Human Rights & Social Justice.