By Terrie Rizzo
As a state and as a country, we are facing an immeasurable tragedy as the coronavirus pandemic claims more lives this week. President Donald Trump wants us to believe this heartbreaking crisis was completely unexpected and unavoidable, but the facts show that’s just not true.
It is not partisan to hold a president accountable for ignoring a deadly pandemic for two months, it is necessary. People from all parties are affected. Actions — and inactions — have consequences, and Americans deserve to know how Trump’s negligence worsened this crisis.
This president could and should have taken decisive action months ago to slow the spread of this virus, but instead of preparing Americans for a deadly health crisis, he chose to ignore the experts, downplay its threat to the public, and delay crucial decisions to mitigate the spread.
When we look to other countries that did take immediate action, like South Korea, we know that much of the devastation we’re now experiencing could have been avoided. The United States and South Korea both discovered their first case of COVID-19 on the same day, January 20, but only Korea’s president took action at the onset.
The Koreans rapidly scaled up testing, allowing them to identify and slow the spread of the disease before it spiraled out of control. Trump ignored his intelligence briefings, called it a “hoax,” and continued on with business as usual. Early action matters: South Korea now has 20 cases per 100,000 people, whereas the U.S. has 142 cases per 100,000 people.
Trump’s erratic response wasted time that could have been spent scaling up testing to identify and contain community spread of the virus. It could have been spent bolstering our national stockpile so nurses and doctors would not have to use trash bags and bandanas as personal protective equipment when their supplies run out. It could have been spent developing a coordinated national strategy, instead of leaving it up to states to compete for ventilators and PPEs.
Rather than follow the National Security Council’s 69-page playbook on fighting pandemics, Trump asked Jared Kushner to figure it out, who in turn had his brother’s father-in-law group-source information on Facebook, a platform infamous for spreading disinformation.
Not only did Trump recklessly ignore experts urging him to take decisive action on COVID-19 months ago, he also left Americans vulnerable to a pandemic in the first place. He eliminated the White House Global Pandemic Response team, cut the CDC position dedicated to detecting outbreaks in China, and slashed the CDC’s efforts to prevent global disease outbreak by 80%.
Trump is trying to set the bar so low that he congratulated himself for not “doing nothing” about the crisis. While he is patting himself on the back for the steps he has belatedly taken to mitigate the crisis, the situation has been getting worse across America, including here in Florida where there are now more than 23,000 confirmed cases.
We are in a catastrophic humanitarian crisis and Donald Trump’s erratic and delayed leadership has tragically made it worse.
Terrie Rizzo is chair of the Florida Democratic Party