The President envisions himself as a military genius, leading the country in a war to conquer the coronavirus. He has characterized the public as “warriors” in the fight. We have the world’s finest epidemiologists and best medical technology to support the struggle, so we should be outshining every other nation on earth. Indeed, on May 8 Trump proclaimed that the U.S. was recognized as the “world leader” in the fight. Four days later he announced that we had “prevailed.” Let’s examine what prevailing looks like.
The United States has 4.24% of the world’s population. As of May 12, America had almost 1.4 million reported cases of Covid-19 infection, totaling 32.4% of the world’s cases. With 81,937 deaths, nearly triple the amount of the second-place country, the U.S. had 28.5% of the reported deaths on the planet. Our fatality percentage is creeping upward because we had 20.8% of world deaths on April 14 and 25.6% on April 24. A competent General strives to suffer the least casualties, not the most.
Countries close to China, where the virus originated, have reported death tolls lower than 1,000–Japan 624, South Korea 256, Taiwan 7 and Vietnam 0. Was our shocking comparative casualty count a result of China concealing information about the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan? It certainly did not help, but most nations became aware of China’s deception about the same time we did in January. Other countries immediately swung into action to distance the population and test, test, test. Our leader was essentially AWOL in the fight throughout February and the first half of March.
Even when Trump finally realized the danger in mid-March, he failed to implement a nationwide strategy. When a General is preparing to go into battle, it is imperative to have an overall strategy. For a nationwide threat there must be one guiding national strategy. A rational General would not send out 50 different units with instructions for each to devise its own battle strategy. That would invite chaos.
By pushing the testing and tracking responsibilities off onto the states, Trump has produced a chaotic and prolonged response to the nationwide pandemic. Had he heeded the dire warnings from his experts, starting in January, and ramped up an all-hands-on-deck national fight against the virus, our casualty figures would undoubtedly have been much lower and the economic damage much less severe.
Many other nations implemented a national strategy early on to intensively test and track infections throughout their respective countries. That is the strategy that our pandemic experts, both in and out of government, have been urging since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. It is the strategy that Trump has resisted from the start. It is the strategy that is essential to re-opening our country safely. It is the strategy that Trump finally adopted for the White House when infections were discovered in Trump and Pence aides. If the strategy is critical for protecting the top bananas, shouldn’t the rest of us have that same protection?
There has also been a leadership vacuum in the United States. Trump has failed to guide the country with compassion and a consistent approach. One day testing is essential and the next day it isn’t. The President has vacillated on opening the country. His official guidelines urge caution, while his public statements throw caution to the wind. His recent happy talk has given some the idea that the pandemic is history and I fear we are in for a rude awakening.
The basic problem is that Trump is being guided by his political fortunes–his words and actions are primarily designed to enhance his re-election prospects, rather than to suppress the virus and save lives. A competent General understands that political spin will not win a war—think Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan…