As the name implies, self-isolation is a lonely endeavour. In present day America, human connection has been restricted to talking from at least six feet apart, waving through a webcam or learning through a screen. Sporting events, graduations and Hollywood productions have all been cancelled, giving us nothing but time to think about where we go from here.
For many, information about the future comes in the form of daily press briefings. New Yorkers can enjoy a press briefing by Governor Andrew Cuomo during a mid-quarantine brunch. Illinoisans can spend the hour after lunch listening to JB Pritzker. And, as a country, we can all spend the late afternoon watching the White House’s daily briefing.
However, in this new post-COVID-19 reality, our time in lockdown has also offered the collective world the opportunity to wonder how we got here. It’s difficult to pass judgment in the middle of a storm, but that shouldn’t cause us to be ignorant to facts.
The month of February, now just two months ago, feels like the distant past. It was then that U.S. cases of COVID-19 were only above a dozen. Businesses were operating as usual, and many thought fear of the virus was overblown, reasoning it would have about as much impact that Ebola or SARS had on America. Among those was President Trump.
“When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” Trump said in a Feb. 28 press conference.
Now, the U.S. is the global epicenter for the crisis, leading the world in cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Anyone can tell this is no Ebola, which, according to the CDC, only had two contractions on American soil in 2014.
This is much greater than Ebola, in part because of structural and political failures at all levels. The Obama Administration appointed an Ebola czar in mid-October of 2014, according to CNN, to help with containment efforts. Since U.S. cases were so low, the Ebola task force was mostly used to send aid to the hard-hit West Africa.
The situation was much different in the current administration. According to the New York Times, medical experts were warning the White House about the threat of COVID-19 as early as January, arguing that schools would likely need to close due to the degree of contagiousness. A travel restriction for China was issued by the State Department, but most warnings weren’t heeded. Crucial preparation time in February was wasted.
No real action occurred until cases climbed in early March. After an error-riddled Oval Office address failed to calm fears on March 11, a flurry of news came out. The NBA had suspended its season, actor Tom Hanks announced he contracted the disease, schools and business shifted to online activity. Within 48 hours, the country was as paralyzed as it’s ever been.
Since then, cases have skyrocketed; the stock market has crashed and jobless claims have reached over 22 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. However, President Trump continues to assure the American people that all is under control, all while mentioning how he has reached the top of Facebook trends and beat The Bachelor’s season nine finale ratings, according to his Twitter account.
The truth is, we don’t have adequate testing in this country, unlike Vice President Mike Pence’s assertions. The White House is afraid to tell the American people that the economy will not recover overnight. We won’t be completely back to normal until a vaccine comes out.
The falsehoods coming from the White House are disgraceful. The lack of awareness towards a crisis is reminiscent of James Buchanan before the Civil War, and the pitiful response of forcing states to conduct their own individual responses was like Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression.
It’s for those reasons that the Federal Reserve predicts the unemployment rate could reach as high as 32%. The highest it reached during the Great Depression was 25%. It’s why the United States surpassed China in its death count. It’s the reason health care workers pour over the sick for hours, putting their lives at risk.
No, President Trump is not responsible for the coronavirus. But, he is responsible for the response, which has been the largest failure in the history of the federal government in modern history.
President Trump has shown no interest in the value of humanity at any point during this pandemic. This is evident by his desire to open up the economy regardless of what Dr. Anthony Fauci advises, and merely uses his daily briefings to settle scores before an election nears.
A legacy, in effect, is a test of how one reacts to extraordinary circumstances. There are two types of presidents: those that shape the events around them and those who let the events wash over them. President Trump has shown exactly how he’ll be remembered in this time of crisis.