Since this blog’s previous update, the death toll in the United States has risen above a harrowing 80,000 people and the nationwide unemployment rate has soared to more than 14.7 percent of the working populace; about 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April alone. In spite of these worrisome figures, Donald Trump claimed on May 11 that “we’ve prevailed” against the threat of coronavirus. The unfortunate reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth, and Trump’s denial has become increasingly dangerous, both to our lives and our economy.
- When multiple White House staff members were reported to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Trump stated that he was “not worried” about the infection’s spread within the administration’s inner sanctum. However, within days, he was telling aides that he “doesn’t want to be near” any person who hasn’t been tested. The same day he said that he had “prevailed” against COVID-19, administration staff were ordered to start wearing masks in the White House, with one person even saying that working there was “scary.” Even so, Trump continued his reckless push to reopen the national economy. And he still won’t wear a face mask.
- This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, and Admiral Brett Giroir testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. As some of the nation’s most respected experts and leaders on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, their grim assessment of the Trump administration’s failure to prevent needless harm repeatedly clashed with Trump’s inaccurate assertions about the public health crisis and the federal aid that individuals and states need in order to weather it. Dr. Fauci indirectly refuted Trump’s argument that lifting stay-at-home restrictions is critical for alleviating strain on the economy by pointing out that opening too early “could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery.” Less than 24 hours prior, Trump told reporters that the numbers of confirmed cases “are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country,” and a few days before that, he stated that COVID-19 was going to “go away without [a] vaccine,” despite a lack of evidence for either statement. The testimony from these experts serves as yet another example of the clear disconnect between what Trump says and the continued nationwide spread of the virus.
- Voting rights during the pandemic continue to be at risk as Trump engaged even more forcefully this week in legal battles to depress mail-in voting. To support this aim, the GOP has increased its budget to fight Democratic lawsuits over voting laws to $20 million, and Republican officials are mounting brazen challenges to initiatives geared towards voters’ safety during this public health crisis. Additionally, far-right influencers are now claiming that opposing vote-by-mail is a “spiritual battle” for “control of the free world.”
- As evidenced by the shelving of a detailed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) document on reopening the economy, Trump continued his efforts to block oversight of his administration’s response to the pandemic this week. Nonetheless, Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted vaccine expert who submitted a whistleblower complaint about the administration’s coronavirus response, and Michael Bowen, the owner of the largest domestic mask producer, both testified on Thursday in a House health subcommittee hearing. In short, both experts testified that the administration was warned of the impending personal protective equipment supply shortages in January – and then chose to do nothing for months as the infection ravaged the country. To quote Dr. Bright: “Alarms were not responded to with action.”
- American citizens and public officials alike continue to criticize Trump and his administration for the dangerous delay in boosting the country’s testing capacity. Mitt Romney, R-UT, criticized the Trump administration on Tuesday for its dereliction of duty. Americans across the country are still experiencing severe testing shortages, yet in stark contrast the White House had immediate access to testing after some of its staff tested positive for coronavirus. And despite many experts having warned Trump back in February about the impending testing kit shortages, a recent report revealed that the administration took until the end of April to increase production of a key component of the tests. In fact, one health expert testified on Wednesday that the severe economic shutdown had been necessary because of the government’s failure to provide a robust testing infrastructure at the start of the pandemic.
- Corporations and the rich continue to benefit from federal aid marked specifically for pandemic relief – thanks, in large part, to Trump’s recent moves to suppress congressional oversight. Even while unemployment rises and small businesses struggle to stay afloat, Wall Street seems to be thriving, as are the stocks of big private equity firms, both of which are clear indicators that investors believe the bailout is succeeding in helping the richest among us. At least 41 publicly-traded companies that already had enough funds to float themselves for a few months of the coronavirus lockdown still succeeded in obtaining $104 million in federal aid through the coronavirus stimulus. Meanwhile, small businesses that were unable to receive aid have been forced to close down across the country, and are increasingly desperate for aid that the Trump administration instead allowed to be funneled to wealthy allies.
- Trump has renewed his fixation on irrationally blaming President Obama for the current pandemic and on striking down the Affordable Care Act – in the middle of a public health crisis where at least 27 million Americans have been forced off their health insurance. On May 10, Trump went on a 126-tweet rampage that repeatedly focused on critics and political rivals – all while the pandemic raged outside his doors.
During his hearing, Dr. Fauci called the death rate from coronavirus in the U.S. “unacceptable.” He’s right, but there’s more to it: It’s unacceptable that already-vulnerable communities across the country are suffering even greater harm during the pandemic. It’s unacceptable that Trump has deemed certain workers “essential” even while he refuses to provide them adequate protection or compensation. It’s unacceptable that Trump decided to barrel towards reopening the economy despite marked increases in confirmed cases nationwide.
But that’s why we must work together to support initiatives such as the House Democrats-proposed HEROES Act, which should form the basis of the next stage of federal coronavirus relief. This piece of legislation proposes that funding be allocated specifically for the U.S. Postal Service, election security measures, state and local governments, housing assistance, and other vital aid, and will be imperative for ensuring that the country can make it through the next few months of the pandemic. PFAW is working hard to hold the Trump administration accountable, and to do that, we need engaged supporters like you. Keep an eye on PFAW’s channels for how to get involved from home during this unprecedented time.