This week’s news has been largely dominated by the Senate runoff races in Georgia and Trump supporters’ terrorism at the U.S. Capitol. But even as news coverage focused on these events, the pandemic continued its dangerous spread through our communities.
At Donald Trump’s rally that preceded the assault at the Capitol, his supporters urged the crowd to “turn to the person next to you and give them a hug” – creating a “mass-spreader event.” That same day, the United States experienced its most deadly day of the pandemic so far: More than 3,900 deaths and 255,000 new cases were reported on January 6. And neither Trump nor his Republican allies have indicated any concern about the ongoing severity of the pandemic or that their failures and misdeeds have further exacerbated it.
- On January 3, two days after the U.S. surpassed the milestone of 20,000,000 total reported COVID-19 cases, Trump tweeted that the number of cases and deaths due to the “China Virus is far exaggerated” because of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “ridiculous method of determination.” Both Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, pushed back against Trump’s claims within a matter of hours.
- More of the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout failures came to light this week: Despite Operation Warp Speed chief advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui’s promise last December that 20 million people would be vaccinated before the end of 2020, only 5 million Americans had received their first dose as of January 6. Only 30 percent of the 17 million distributed vaccine doses have been administered so far. Public health experts warn that delays in distributing and administering the vaccine could cause hundreds of thousands more COVID-19 deaths, and the CDC forecast that the overall toll of the virus in the U.S. could exceed 430,000 by the end of January.
- Trump’s private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, violated the area’s coronavirus safety restrictions during multiple holiday events, including a New Year’s Eve party that was widely maskless. A state representative has since called for the club to be shut down for flouting the mask order in Palm Beach County.
- Further details of the Trump administration’s extensive campaign to exert influence over the CDC’s medical expertise continue to emerge. In late December, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus released documents detailing Trump political appointees’ attempts to “alter or block” information in at least 13 reports on the use of masks, the virus’s spread among children, its transmission during the Wisconsin primary in April, and other key morbidity and mortality data.
- Top Trump enabler Mitch McConnell objected to the extension of the paid leave mandate for U.S. workers in the coronavirus relief legislation passed in late December. McConnell’s earlier obstruction has also resulted in the allocated state aid coming too late to help the earliest rollout of the vaccine during the latest surge.
Despite the ongoing devastation, Trump and his federal allies continue to obstruct the orderly transition of coronavirus information to the Biden-Harris administration’s incoming team of public health experts. During a pandemic, every day can make a life-or-death difference. Trump’s callous indifference to protecting the American people has already taken a needlessly tragic toll on the country.
Trump’s failure to lead us through the pandemic will be among the greatest failures of his presidency. And although he will soon lack any governing power, the impact of his failures will continue to hurt the American people. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have outlined their extensive plans to combat the virus and speed up the production and dispersal of COVID-19 vaccines – and their leadership couldn’t come soon enough.