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Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (8/14 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (8/14 Update)

This week, Florida and Georgia reported the highest single-day COVID-19 death tolls since the pandemic began spreading in the U.S. Outbreaks are on the rise in four Midwestern states that had largely been spared in the pandemic’s early months. The case count in the U.S. has now surpassed 5 million.

Our country has led the world in the number of confirmed cases and deaths for more than a month, but Donald Trump still thinks that he and his administration have done a “fantastic job” of handling the coronavirus. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • On August 13, Trump said that he’s actively trying to defund the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during this public health crisis to ensure that every eligible voter is able to cast their vote safely. However, his attempts to hamper the USPS are already having serious consequences for Americans aside from election-related issues, from negatively impacting struggling businesses to delaying the delivery of vital medications.
  • New data from John Hopkins University revealed that it took only two weeks for the U.S. to log the most recent million confirmed cases. During that time period, the average number of COVID-19 tests being conducted declined about 12 percent nationwide, largely due to the lack of a national testing strategy.
  • COVID-19 infections among children in Florida rose 137 percent over the past month, and a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association found that at least 97,000 children nationwide were infected during the last two weeks of July. Yet Trump aides have dismissed the potential for outbreaks in schools as “inevitable,” and on August 12, Trump incorrectly claimed that “99.9 percent” of those who died from COVID-19 were adults.
  • On July 8, Trump released a set of four executive orders that purported to provide aid. However, according to experts, the “patchwork” of orders is unlikely to provide any meaningful assistance to Americans, either in terms of health care or the economy.
    • None of the orders addresses the systemic problems with testing and contract tracing that are vital to reducing transmission.
    • The orders do not provide aid to the small businesses, state and local governments, or low-income people and working families, which could impose further budget cuts or layoffs on struggling businesses and local governments.
    • Trump’s orders do not guarantee an extended moratorium on evictions – a dangerous omission that would leave many tenants at risk. After the previous moratorium expired on July 31, it’s estimated that one-third of all renters nationwide will not be able to pay their rent in August.
    • Continuing his longstanding campaign to eradicate Social Security and Medicare, one of Trump’s orders proposes deferring payroll tax payments for many workers and families. Such a move would substantially weaken both of those vital social safety net programs.
    • Trump’s orders would shrink the next phase of weekly unemployment aid to $400 – and would saddle about one-fourth of those payments on states that are already struggling financially.
  • Trump’s insistence on reopening the economy during an active and ongoing pandemic has not resulted in sustained economic improvements. Multiple outlets reported this week that hiring slowed in July, with 3 million fewer jobs added compared to June due to virus-related business closures.
  • The New York Times reported on August 12 that as many as three dozen current and former members of a federal health advisory committee have warned that the Trump administration’s new data collection system will place an undue burden on hospitals and will compromise the integrity of the data that is essential to tracking the pandemic. So far, the system has resulted in both collection delays and quality-control problems.

“I think it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to do,” Trump bragged about the U.S. coronavirus response on August 10. But the truth is that he and his administration have done nothing to address the severity and urgency of this crisis. The White House should work together with Congress to give Americans the assistance they need instead of pretending to provide aide by releasing toothless executive orders. But as usual, Trump’s actions this week are all hot air – and Americans are being forced to face the consequences of his failures.

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