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As Donald Trump leaves the presidency on Wednesday, his final days in office have been filled with talk of his role in sparking the riot at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead and the country shaken.
As horrid as they are, the events of two weeks ago shouldn’t obscure Trump’s colossal mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump’s disinterested and irresponsible response to the ongoing pandemic contributed to unnecessary deaths and suffering.
In the United States, more than 24 million people have been infected with the virus, more than twice as many as in India, which has the second highest number of reported cases at 10 million. More than 400,000 Americans have died, nearly twice as many as in Brazil, the country with the second highest number of reported coronavirus deaths. The number of COVID deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. is among the highest in the world.
Coronavirus deaths are on the rise in 30 states as overburdened hospitals turn away patients.
It started with his administration gutting a pandemic response team created by the previous president. Trump then continually downplayed the danger of the virus, even after he contracted it (and was treated with medications that are n’t readily available to the American public).
In September, when 200,000 Americans had died, Trump said: “It affects virtually nobody … It’s an amazing thing.”
“It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. That’s what it really affects,” the president said, shockingly implying that the premature deaths of these Americans didn’t matter.
He undercut the advice, especially, about mask wearing, from federal health experts and members of his own coronavirus task force. He continued to largely decline to wear a mask and to hold and attend large gatherings.
It is worth noting that few of the people who descended on the Capitol earlier this month were wearing face coverings for coronavirus. As a result, the riot is likely to cause an uptick in coronavirus cases in many states.
The one thing the administration did right was to incentivize the quick development of vaccines against the virus. Through Operation Warp Speed, three vaccines were developed in under a year in the U.S. Vaccines have also been created and are in use in other countries as well.
However, the delivery of vaccines to health care providers has been hampered by misinformation and the administration’s hand off of responsibility for vaccination plans to state officials.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar last Tuesday said that vaccine production was then fast enough that a reserve supply that was being held would be shipped to the states. Days later, the department said there was no reserve supply. States, including Maine, say that they do not have enough inoculations to meet the vaccine timetables they had developed in response to Azar’s earlier news.
“Who is in line will not change,” Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week. “The velocity of that line will change,” Shah said, because the doses that the state expected are not coming.
Is it a sad and frustrating ending to nearly a year of mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
Asked Tuesday what she was most looking forward to with a change in administrations in Washington, Gov. Janet Mills put a better response to the pandemic at the top of her list.
We’re under no illusions that soon-to-be president Joe Biden can wave a wand and immediately improve the coronavirus situation. But, having an administration that values scientific and public health information, and demonstrates that it truly cares about the health of Americans, sets the stage for a more responsible, coordinated and realistic plan to bring the pandemic to an end in the U.S.