Monday, November 23, 2020
Nov. 23, 2020

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In Our View: Trump fails to deliver COVID-19 strategy

The Columbian
Published:

Rather than devise a bold and aggressive plan for combating the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is surrendering. Eight months into the pandemic, a lack of leadership from the White House is continuing to endanger Americans while providing little hope that the end is near.

President Donald Trump, apparently, would prefer that we ignore his nonexistent strategy. On Monday, he used Twitter to accuse the media of talking about “COVID, COVID, COVID” and wrote that such reporting “should be an election law violation.”

Unfortunately for the president, the United States over the weekend saw its highest number of COVID-19 cases for any two-day span since the virus arrived on our shores. This adds to the total in a nation that has one of the highest per-capita rates of infection and one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world.

Equally important, the latest modeling from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that at the current trajectory, the United States will see more than 2,000 COVID deaths per day by December and that by the end of winter the total U.S. death toll could reach more than 500,000. The same model estimates that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks, 130,000 lives would be saved.

Of course, models are merely predictions. But they are predictions created by scientists who have spent their careers studying the spread of disease.

Rather than pay heed to those models, Trump has spent the past eight months ignoring them. Rather than devising a strategy or demonstrating leadership, he has capitulated to a disease that is killing Americans every day, long after he insisted it would just go away. As recently as Oct. 10, after he was hospitalized with COVID-19, Trump said, “It’s going to disappear. It is disappearing.”

We repeat: This past weekend saw the country’s highest two-day total of confirmed infections.

The fact is that the Trump administration has acquiesced to coronavirus rather than fight it. That lack of strategy has kept the economy from fully reopening, schools from welcoming students in large numbers and life from returning to normal for millions of Americans.

The administration has embraced a herd-immunity strategy that relies on as many Americans as possible contracting the disease. On Sunday, chief of staff Mark Meadows said, “We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

That represents a false choice between slowing the spread of the virus and preparing for its aftermath. Both approaches are necessary for getting a handle on the coronavirus, not one or the other. As Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, wrote for CNN.com: “Donald Trump has surrendered without ever joining the battle.”

That has been the plan from the beginning, as we now know that Trump revealed in taped interviews that he downplayed the disease “because I don’t want to create a panic.”

That is not leadership. It is an abdication of duty and an admission that he lied to the public. In the process, Trump underestimated Americans. We don’t panic; we are willing to do what is necessary to fight coronavirus, but first we must have accurate information.

Whether it is in the coming months or four years from now, the pandemic will provide the epitaph for the Trump presidency, a tenure marked by unprecedented failure.

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