Editor’s column misplaced blame

By Steve DeFord

In regards to Jayson Jacoby’s column of Saturday, July 18 — “Masks and March: facing up to the question” — I believe that you are in error for placing the blame for the “mask game” squarely on the wrong person. It seems to me that Governor Brown (and all other governors) have had to handle this COVID-19 crisis in a vacuum. A vacuum solely created by the Trump administration.

His repeated efforts to downplay the seriousness of the virus, even joking about it, after being warned of the consequences by organizations and knowledgeable individuals, displays a total lack of concern for America’s citizens. Fellow Americans, whose lives depended on timely, accurate information and correct treatment, were denied the truth and many have suffered tremendously as over 4 million cases of the virus have been reported and there are close to 150,000 deaths in the United States. It is too bad that we didn’t have any insightful, intelligent presidential leadership at the onset of the virus. But we have a person in charge who doesn’t believe in science and truth and doesn’t trust anyone. Now we all suffer because of his incompetent handling this virus.

A condensed timeline shows that in February 2018 the Trump administration began a conscience effort to critically reduce funding for agencies that deal with communicable diseases. Then high ranking health officials are pushed out of the administration and the Global Health Security Team is disbanded.

In early 2019 the Director of National Intelligence issued a warning about the social and economic consequences of the virus in our country that Trump ignored. Later in 2019 Trump ended the pandemic early warning program that trained scientists to identify viruses that could turn into a pandemic.

In early January 2020, the CDC was alerted about the virus in China and, days later, issued an official health warning about COVID-19. Two weeks later Trump finally agrees to meet with HHS Alex Azar to discuss the virus. Two days later the first case of COVID-19 is officially reported in Washington State.

That’s when Trump told Americans not to worry about the virus as only 1 case had been reported and everything was under control. “Everything is going to be fine,” he stated.

While Trump denied the virus problem advisors and aides and even congressional members reached out to him to take immediate action to protect Americans. HHS asked to transfer $136 million in funds to combat the virus but was denied as it would be “alarmist.” Meanwhile, Trump was telling Americans at his rallies that, “we only have 5 people. Hopefully, everything is going to be great.”

To look like he was taking “some kind of action” Trump implemented a useless travel ban that kept almost no one from China out of the U. S. On the same day face masks and latex gloves sold out at Amazon and in New York. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Trump claimed to have shut it (the virus) down.

The Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed in early February about the serious threat the virus posed to America by Robert Kadlec, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and other intelligence officials. In early February HHS Secretary Alex Azar requested $2 billion to buy respirators, masks and other supplies for a depleted federal stockpile for emergency equipment but the request was denied by Trump. Eventually, Congress sent $500 million weeks later.

While Trump continues his political rallies denying the spread of the virus knowledgeable people including Congressional members, governors, the former head of Trump’s FDA and others are learning the truth about the deadly virus and what his inactions are costing in American lives and suffering. In late February he was still telling Americans that the virus is under control and not to worry. Congress finally recognized the coming threat and offered the administration an additional $6 billion extra to prepare for the virus. Trump was still telling people at his rallies that he’d done a “pretty good job of stopping the virus.”

In March HHS says they don’t have enough respirators for a pandemic. Advocates for social distancing and school closures begin to speak out but Trump says that developments are good for the consumer and compares the COVID-19 to the common flu.

In early March Trump continues telling everyone who will listen that “as a country we’re prepared and we’re doing a great job and that it will just go away.”

In mid March he finally announces support for a 15-day social distancing measure and other measures to slow the virus’ spread. He said that he expects it to last several more weeks at most.

It was suggested to the president by Oregon’s Senators that he could use a Defense Production Act to dramatically increase the PPE needed during the virus. He signed the executive order but declined to use it.

On March 17, 2020, Trump told reporters that “he knew it was a pandemic long before it was called that by other officials.” Later in the week he tweeted about using Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin as a preventative for the virus. This was proven to be a false and extremely dangerous claim and Trump was called out on it by almost every knowledgeable person at the time.

In late March Trump decided that the 15-day period of distancing, “may be worse than the problem itself.” Then he decided that churches should be allowed open for Easter while criticizing the World Health Organization for “mishandling the pandemic” and ending funding for it. The WHO responds by stating that they were very clear about the warning in early January.

We all know now how bad the virus is and a lot of the misery and deaths could have been avoided if we had an intelligent, insightful, caring president who was willing to work for everyone’s health and security. But we’ve been stuck with a dawdling old fool who wouldn’t listen to experts because he doesn’t “trust science.” Now, he’s saying we have to open the schools regardless of science! That’s where you go to learn science, I thought. He must have missed that class, too.

I think you really missed the mark on this one. You should have placed the “mask game” blame squarely on the shoulders of the one person who had a chance to stop or at least minimize the COVID-19 crisis: Trump! He had a chance to provide some meaningful leadership when our country desperately needed it. He has failed his country, again.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States seems to me to be the place to look for leadership in a situation like this. This is grade school stuff, but we forget. Read it again and apply it to today.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, Promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Steve DeFord lives in Sumpter.

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