Opinion

Trump is the virus-in-chief, making the pandemic worse

The opinions contained within are not necessarily the opinions of Blue Water Healthy Living.

By Jim Bloch

President Donald J. Trump has succeeded in his new role as virus-in-chief. Through his outright lies, misstatements, bullying behavior and sheer inaction, he has worked against containing the spread of the coronavirus and contributed to skyrocketing cases of COVID-19.

Viruses are “genetic entities that lie somewhere in the grey area between living and non- living states,” according to the University of California-Berkeley Museum of Paleontology. “Viruses depend on the host cells that they infect to reproduce.”

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Trump’s disdain for science and his inability to follow the advice of infectious disease experts have made his news conferences about the pandemic events that should be avoided.

His words have become verbal viruses that burrow into the minds of American citizens, causing uncertainty about the future, distrust in the media and lack of a faith in the government. They have added to the increasing inability of people to discern between truth and fiction. They have contributed to the generalized panic in response to the virus: Witness the extreme zigzags of the stock market, the empty shelves in supermarkets, the
runs on guns and ammo.

Trump spent three months minimizing the threat posed by the coronavirus.

Was the president worried about the spread of the virus?

“No. Not at all,” Trump replied to CNBC on Jan. 22. By then, the virus had spread to four countries beyond China. “And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

No need to launch nationwide preparation for a pandemic if everything is fine.

“We have it very well under control,” Trump claimed in Michigan, Jan. 30.

No need to order people off the beaches in Florida if everything is under control.

Now Florida is a national hot spot.

“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” Trump told a rally in New Hampshire, Feb. 10.

Why not pack New Orleans for Mardi Gras? In five weeks, the virus will disappear.

Now New Orleans is a national hot spot.

Medical experts repeatedly have said they do not know what the impact of warmer weather will be on the coronavirus.

“We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up,” Trump said on Feb. 26.

Not true.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S. on Jan. 21. There were six cases as the month ended, according to the CDC. There were 15 cases by Feb 21 and 16 by Feb 27. The first death occurred in the U.S. on Feb. 28, when there were a total of 24 cases. By April 1, there were 186,101 cases in the U.S.

In early March, Trump said COVID-19 was “very mild. People will get better very rapidly. They don’t even need to see a doctor.” He said hundreds of thousands of people will get better just by “sitting around and even going to work.”

No use social distancing if you can go to work. No need to stay home if you’re sick. Trump has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the flu, for which there are vaccines and anti-viral treatments. He called it the “corona flu” on March 4. There are no anti-viral treatments approved for COVID-19 and no vaccine will be available “very quickly,” as he said on Feb. 29.

When he wasn’t calling the coronavirus some kind of flu, he was calling it the Chinese virus, as he did on March 18, even though viruses have no nationality. He berated reporters who suggested the term was racist and was contributing to racism against Chinese Americans.

Lack of tests

On Feb. 6, the CDC announced that it had started distributing test kits for the virus to qualified laboratories around the country.

The tests contained a glitch and did not work.

The Trump administration reacted as if it was no big deal. It didn’t attempt to fix the glitch or loosen regulations to allow hospitals and private labs to make their own kits. It refused kits from the World Health Organization, which 60 countries were successfully using.

Six weeks later, the U.S. still faces shortages of test kits.

“Anybody that needs a test, gets a test,” Trump said on March 6. “They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.”

Not true. By April 1, tests were still hard to come by. In Michigan, 25,711 tests had been given as of March 31, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

That’s way less than one percent of the population.

Without mass testing, who knows how many people actually have the virus? The answer is no one.

Bad communication

During an national epidemic, effective communication from national and state leaders is critical.

According to a 2018 WHO report called “Managing Epidemics,” efficacy hinges on the credibility of the speaker, the care they express for their citizens and their empathy for those in harm’s way.

“Accountability is key: communicators must demonstrate that they and outbreak managers are accountable for what they say, promise, and do,” the report said.

Throughout his three years in office, Trump’s narcissism has prevented him from showing compassion to others. When NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked him what he would tell citizens to ease their fears about the virus, he attacked him as a bad reporter.

The media is one of Americans’ main sources of information about the pandemic and Trump uses his briefings to attack individual reporters and news organizations. He regularly has regularly insulted NPR reporter Yamiche Alcindor.

“Why don’t you act in a little more positive?” Trump said on March 29 after Alcindor asked Trump about his comments that governors were inflating their needs for medical equipment. “It’s always get ya, get ya, get ya. You know what? That’s why nobody trusts the media anymore… That’s why you used to work for the Times and now you work for somebody else.”

Governors have had to fill the void left by the absence of national leadership during the pandemic. Trump has tried to undercut their efforts.

On March 27, he called the Michigan governor a half wit. He claimed she was “in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude.”

Trump called Washington Gov. Inslee, overseeing the nation’s first COVID-19 hotspot, a “snake.”

Gretchen Whitmer’s decisive actions have made the Trump Whitehouse look like a VW bug filled with overdressed clowns.

Trump has repeatedly insulted people and companies that the country must depend upon to solve the national equipment shortages for which he must bear primary responsibility.

Trump insulted GM and its workers in their effort to bring ventilators to the market.

“Always a mess with Mary B,” he tweeted on March 27, referring to GM CEO Mary Barra. “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio …,” he tweeted.

The plant was sold last year.

Even though the CDC has urged social distancing of at least six feet, Trump’s press conferences on COVID-19 throughout March had officials clumped together. On March 13, Trump shook hands with Richard Ashworth, president of Walgreens. If the president does not need to follow his own government’s advice, why should we?

Out of the blue

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the pandemic came as a surprise.

“It’s something that nobody expected,” he on March 14 as if trying to excuse his bungling of the crisis.

A number of governmental agencies and reports have warned about the threat of a pandemic going back 20 years or more.

In 2018 and 2019, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community spelled out the threat in bold italics.

“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support,” the agencies said in January 2019.

There is a virus at large in the land and it’s not only the coronavirus.

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