President Donald Trump said in a press briefing Sunday that if America can skirt the higher end of coronavirusfatality estimates—2.2 million—and cap deaths at 100,000 to 200,000, “we’ve all together done a very good job.”
By now we’ve come to expect such brash insensitivity from the man who believes disease control consists of ignoring the disease.
He famously denied the existence of coronavirus earlier this year, last week promised to reopen the economy by Easter (a move that, by all expert accounts, would have been catastrophic), and in the March 16 press conference in which he first took the virus remotely seriously, on March 16, said “we have a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about.” At that time, China had 80,880 recorded cases, the virus was slamming Italy, and the United States had seen its first case months prior—in January.
The question for Trump isn’t how he could be so breathtakingly insensitive. We’ve met the guy.
The real question is what leads him to believe deaths will be kept to “between 100- and 200,000” in the United States, considering the colossal government mishandling of the crisis of which he’s at the helm. That 200,000 estimate corresponds to a projection in which government takes swift, strict and severe measures. That is not the federal government we’re dealing with.
As Trump’s government should have been preparing to bolster a healthcare system already operating at maximum capacity, Trump called the virus “a hoax.” As the administration should have been bracing the nation for impact by calling for self-distancing measures and economic aid, Trump promised cases would magically drop to zero.
Most recently, Trump’s administration, despite declaring a wartime government and invoking the Defense Production Act, neglected to mobilize manufacturers to produce severely needed medical equipment, when experts had identified a critical need for ventilator production as early as January. It didn’t determine or publicize how many ventilators would be needed or when, and now Trump is chastising General Motors, which voluntarily started producing ventilators, for not working fast enough, and is seemingly calling New York Governor Andrew Cuomo greedy or deluded for reporting his state’s need for 30,000 ventilators.
That’s not to mention the human toll of Trump’s consistent understatement of the severity of the crisis, which handed responsibility for containment measures entirely to state and local governments, resulting in a patchwork quarantine system that left many areas—feeling no federal pressure to keep people indoors—vulnerable.
Trump’s incompetence will prove fatal for legions of Americans. Never has the direct correlation between government and the life and death of its constituents been clearer.
Circling back to the initial outrage at Trump’s comments, even if the United States does manage to cap its fatalities at 200,000, that is not, as Trump claimed, “a very good job.” That is 200,000 people, gone, leaving their loved ones and their communities to mourn.
For reference, coronavirus has been the singular focus of global discourse for weeks and thus far, 24,000 people have died. For reference, the flu kills around 30,000 people annually. For reference, 58,220 Americans total died fighting in Vietnam.
Fortunately, there are reasons not to wax apocalyptic. State and local governments have taken extraordinary measures to stop the spread, heroic healthcare professionals are putting themselves at risk by working in overrun hospitals and using bandanas as medical masks, and individuals across America are helping flatten the curve by social distancing and self-quarantining.
In the absence of responsible government, many Americans stepped up to take responsibility for the safety of their communities and country. If anyone’s done “a very good job,” it’s them.