ECLECTIC RANT: Stumbling Through the Pandemic
Without A National Leader

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday May 03, 2020 - 03:53:00 PM


April was a cruel month thanks in part to President Trump. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of April 30, the U.S. had 1,031,659 cases of COVID-19 and 60,057 deaths. Less than 2% of all Americans have been tested for COVID-19 — nearly 5.5 million people. 

According to a Harvard University study, the U.S. needs to be testing 5 million per day and up to 20 million by July in order to safely re-open the country. Thus, the number of Americans infected by the virus is vastly undercounted. In other words, the U.S. doesn’t know what it doesn’t know to make any decisions about re-opening the country. 

Trump took no leadership role in ensuring nationwide testing, and did not take charge of securing and distributing masks, personal protective equipment, or other necessary equipment. Instead, he said it was the states’ responsibility to cope with the pandemic. His role has been limited to daily briefing full of disinformation and misinformation. Who can forget his suggestion that all that was needed was a beam of light or inject disinfectant in our veins to wipe out the virus. 

During the crisis, Trump isn’t distributing aid but meting out “favors” based on his relationships with particular governors. It has become a patronage system that required flattery and public expressions of gratitude toward the president, with thousands of of lives at stake. Recently, Trump is suggesting a trade-off if states want aid money, they may need to make “sanctuary-city adjustments.” 

Although delegating responsibility to the states, Trump has undermined their efforts. For example, he sent three tweets: "LIBERATE MICHIGAN, LIBERATE MINNESOTA, and LIBERATE VIRGINIA” in support of those protesting state shelter-in-place orders. There are also protests in other states. In many instances the protesters — some armed with weapons — were violating Trump’s own social distancing guidelines. Are these protests or insurrections?  

Note that these misguided protests against state shelter-in-place orders are not grassroots, people-driven. Rather, they are a rightwing movement backed by wealthy conservative groups and promoted by Trump. The Michigan Freedom Fund, co-host of the Michigan ally, is funded by the family of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, regular donors to rightwing groups. The other co-host, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, was founded by Matt Maddock, now a Republican member of the state house of representatives. The MCC also operates under the name Michigan Trump Republicans, and in January held an event featuring several members of the Trump campaign. 

A majority of Americans support the lockdowns, with a Pew Research Center poll finding that 66% are concerned state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly. 

Some companies and politicians have been busy mounting legal challenges to the variety of shelter-in-place orders imposed throughout the country. Attorney General William P. Barr threatened to support the plaintiffs and told federal prosecutors to “be on the lookout” for unconstitutional restrictions. 

Meatpacking plants are where, as of April 29, an estimated 3,300 workers have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 20 have died. Trump, using the Defense Production Act, ordered these plants to stay open with no mandate to provide adequate protection for their workers. Notice he did not use the Act to order companies to produce personal protective equipment or testing kits. 

Nearly 2,500 long-term care facilities in 36 states are battling coronavirus cases, according to data gathered from state agencies. Nursing home residents are among those most likely to die from the coronavirus, given their advanced age and the prevalence of other health conditions. Yet, the federal government does not keep track of the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes or the number of facilities with infections. 

Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been magnified since in his late response on March 31. His failure to act when warned about the virus in January and February has caused untold deaths.  

I fear we will reopen too soon, causing a resurgence of COVID-19. Will the public tolerate another shutdown or will we take our chances and ride out the resurgence hoping for “herd immunity” or a vaccine to save us? There is, however, currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.