January 18, 2022

A look back at tragedy

A House Sub-Committee released a report Dec. 17 on the Trump Administration’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. For several months, they studied the response to one of the most tragic and challenging crises ever to face our nation. Their findings are pretty disturbing.

For those who expressed deep anxiety when Donald Trump was elected, one of their greatest fears was that he was not experienced enough nor wise enough to handle a major crisis if one should occur. We now know COVID was that crisis and proved the skeptics right.

The report details a sad history of how the Trump administration impeded the federal government’s response to COVID-19. The sub-committee’s conclusion: The administration’s failures resulted in the deaths of thousands of American citizens because Trump was more concerned about getting re-elected than combatting the virus.

The report is actually just a confirmation of what anyone tuning into those daily briefings already knew; the man in charge didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing.

Initially, Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of the team responding to the pandemic, but it wasn’t long before Trump shoved him aside and took over the public briefings himself. It quickly became evident he was playing down the seriousness of the coronavirus. He dominated the briefings while drowning out the scientists, and his ignorance of science was obvious.

The sub-committee report concluded Trump weakened the testing guidance presented by the Center for Disease Center (CDC) to avoid showing how fast COVID was spreading. And the reason he wanted to obscure numbers that told the story of the disaster befalling us? He was worried about getting re-elected. Administrative officials even changed CDC rules to say asymptomatic people did not need to be tested, but in that particular instance, the scientists prevailed and later CDC changed the rules back.

Trump was furious at the way the pandemic was affecting the economy and when one of the CDC officials publicly warned about the devastating crisis upon us, he savagely berated her and blocked further daily briefings for nearly three months. He also discouraged CDC officials from being interviewed by the media.

In April 2020, CDC officials wanted to hold a briefing to talk about the state of the pandemic and how critical it was to wear masks, and also to announce new evidence about pediatric cases and deaths. That briefing was blocked by the White House.

The sub-committee also reported that Trump officials altered health guidelines for religious services. While schools and businesses and nearly every other entity were locked down, Trump allowed church congregations to continue to meet in person. CDC wanted to at least prohibit choir performances to avoid transmitting the virus, but even that was overruled by the White House. Obviously, Trump was looking out for his evangelical supporters with an eye toward re-election. We’ll never know how many deaths there were among those unsuspecting churchgoers.

The report shows blatant disregard by the White House for clear and urgent warnings about the pandemic. While Trump was telling us COVID was no worse than the flu and would be over by Easter, he was admitting to Bob Woodard, author of “Peril,” that this was a very nasty virus, much more deadly than the flu. Trump and his political appointees were also touting some bizarre treatments for COVID and pressuring CDC officials to authorize things like hydroxychloroquine that were unproven as a safe treatment for Covid. And still unproven today.

Now more than 800,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19. This country, despite having the best health system in the world, has suffered an unimaginable tragedy. We lost valuable time fighting the pandemic and have been struggling ever since to get it under control.

The neglect before the election caused irreparable harm; the indifference after the election was reprehensible. After Nov. 3, 2020, Trump had no interest whatsoever in managing the pandemic or rolling out a strategy for the new miracle vaccines. Much to our regret, millions of Americans then got the idea vaccination wasn’t necessary and we’ve been stuck with their obstinance ever since.

The most effective tools of fighting COVID - masks and vaccines - became insanely politicized and here we are today, still struggling with a pandemic beginning its third year.