Coronavirus in the US: A Trump-made crisis

Trump repeatedly dismissed the infection, saying it was “totally under control”. Consequently, the world’s most powerful nation was left scrambling for face masks, test kits and ventilators

Coronavirus in the US: A Trump-made crisis
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Ashis Ray

An unforgivable interference by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the 2016 presidential election in that country exposed the world to grave danger. The FBI’s announcement of an investigation into emails received and sent by Hillary Clinton outside the US administration’s secure system when she was secretary of state in 2009-13 decisively tilted public opinion against her — at a time when she enjoyed a comfortable lead in opinion polls.

As it transpired, the probe report — which surfaced after the outcome — discovered no illegality on the part of Clinton. The impression that she had done something wrong — portrayed by the pronouncement of the FDI director during a surcharged period in the election campaign — awarded Donald Trump an undeserving victory. As a result, a person wholly unworthy of high office in government was installed in the White House. From climate change to commerce to critical security issues, he has caused havoc in the international community. Now, when the world is confronted by its greatest ever crisis — a monstrous invasion by an invisible killer virus (COVID19) — he poses a gigantic threat to his own country.

The devastation the disease is causing to the American economy will give rise to massive unemployment, closure of businesses and a collapse of the stock market. Even after the worst is over, normalcy may not return until an effective vaccine has been approved by authorities, which could take at least a year.

Amid such mayhem, Trump’s prospects of re-election in November — never a foregone conclusion — are in jeopardy. The electoral tide is turning against him, according to informed independent opinion. Indeed, he recklessly threatened to call off social distancing guidelines necessitated by the pandemic in weeks rather than months, so that economic activity may resume. “We are going to get it all going again very soon,” he told journalists. He acknowledged “certainly this is going to be bad”; then in exasperation remarked, “if it were up to the doctors, they may say let’s keep it shut down”. He then frivolously stated: “You look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody no more driving of cars.” He has come up with a catch phrase: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem.”

Trump was in denial on the oncoming virus. This left the US hopelessly unprepared when it predictably became a full-blown epidemic. He repeatedly dismissed the infection, saying it was “totally under control” and “will disappear”, insisting he wasn’t “concerned at all”. Consequently, the world’s most powerful nation was left scrambling for face masks, test kits and ventilators. Trump has been addressing media conferences daily; wherein he has characteristically exaggerated, indulged in falsehood, made light of the seriousness of the situation and painted a rosy picture of his bungling efforts. He has got shamelessly caught by health experts contradicting him from the same podium. He blatantly lied when he said car makers General Motors and Ford are manufacturing ventilators. The New York Times.

He has misleadingly touted chloroquine as a remedy for COVID19 — a drug widely used to cure malaria (which is triggered by mosquito bites, not a virus) — or a variation of it. One report indicated this medicine was tried on around 20 patients in France, out of whom six benefitted. There was no irrefutable evidence to establish the recovery took place because of the pill.

Trump claimed the US’ Federal Drug Authority had approved an anti-malaria vaccine to treat coronavirus. This was patently untrue. John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, though, is working on a stopgap solution. When persons get well after a viral illness, they possess neutralising antibodies in their blood. These antibodies from recovered COVID19 patients, in other words plasma (serum) from the blood of survivors, could be utilised for protection and treatment until a vaccine or specific antiviral medication becomes available. In fact, China has lately sent tons of plasma to Italy.

The challenge in the US is reaching European proportions. A third of Americans have been ordered to stay at home. One could even argue the US is on the same path as Italy, but less prepared. America has fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than Italy and a shorter life expectancy even in the best of times. Trump with Congressional approval has conjured a war chest of $2 trillion as a package to soften the blow for millions whose lives will be decimated by the disruption. However, Ian Goldin, an economics professor at Oxford University airing his views in The New York Times, called for a coordinated international action to avert a major meltdown. “National policies alone, adopted government by government, will not be enough to forestall a global catastrophe.”

He asserted: “President Trump has responded belatedly and erratically to the pressing domestic needs. Internationally, he has isolated the United States and, by turning his back on the world, has stymied an international response…..The collapse of American leadership could not have come at a worse time.” He maintained: “Growth is being dragged down and could turn negative…”

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof after speaking to experts summed up the situation in the US as: Worst case a year from now: More than two million people dead. Best case in March 2021: Thousands of Americans dead, mostly octogenarians and nonagenarians and some with respiratory conditions. The jury’s still out on the circumstances in Canada, contiguous to the US. It was not caught unawares like its neighbour. Its mortality was low, but the number of people still not out of the woods is high. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family have been in quarantine since his wife tested positive.

As for Mexico, bordering the US to the south, the limited number of cases and deaths suggested it has been fortunate, took early precautions or has not been testing enough to provide a true picture.

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