Let’s face it: America’s response to COVID-19 has mostly been a disaster.
We’ve seen more than 220,000 deaths — about 18% of the global total — linked to the coronavirus, and there are likely many more that have slipped through the statistical cracks.
We have 8 million of the world’s 40 million diagnosed infections.
We have no coordinated strategy, and our leadership has cultivated skepticism and conspiracies about the crisis rather than confront it head on in a unified manner.
And yet, President Donald Trump — whose has led this unfocused response and who has promoted dubious theories and remedies along the way in dealing with the situation — gives himself a grade of A+ in his handling of the crisis. Meanwhile, he has no problem throwing actual medical experts under the bus if they disagree with him.
Unfortunately, we’ve grown used to this — or numb to this.
But this week, his attack on Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and one of the members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, crossed a line that cannot be ignored.
While campaigning Monday, Trump referred to Fauci as a “disaster” and an “idiot” because of the doctor’s calls for tougher measures against COVID-19 — calls that have mostly gone unheeded by the commander in chief.
These were the insulting words of a president also struggling in his re-election bid because, in no small part, he is fumbling America’s response to COVID-19. Trump’s insistence on ignoring safety protocols such as wearing a mask and social distancing landed him in the hospital with COVID-19 a few weeks ago, but the experience has done nothing to change his views or to compel him to finally embrace the recommendations of people who actually know better.
This includes Fauci, who has served under six presidents, both Republican and Democrat. He was a keystone in the response against HIV/AIDS and Ebola, and is viewed as one of the top infectious disease experts in the world.
He has been looked to for guidance in this pandemic, but he’s been undercut and dismissed frequently by this president on various protocols.
Now, Trump has decided to just forget about the virus altogether.
“People are saying whatever. ‘Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it,” Trump declared on the campaign trail Monday. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
Denial may be an alluring placebo, but this does nothing to bolster America’s response to this virus other than to sow even more doubt and skepticism at a moment when we need clear science to guide us.
Instead of heeding Fauci’s advice and experience, Trump is trashing the world’s leading expert on infectious diseases in the middle of a pandemic. (This criticism from the president isn’t new, and it may have consequences. According to CBS’s “60 Minutes” last Sunday, Fauci — a man who has dedicated his life to saving lives —requires protection these days after receiving death threats.)
“Tony Fauci has been the most clear, consistent proponent of the measures the United States needs to protect itself from a deadly disease,” William Haseltine, a public health expert and former Harvard Medical School professor, told CNN Monday. “What Donald Trump is doing is attacking the fire department when the house is burning down. This is a very serious time.”
Unfortunately, it also helps explain this nation’s dismal response to a virus that remains out of control.
Fauci surely deserves better from this president, but much, much more importantly, so does America.