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The Trump virus


It can’t be emphasized enough (hello Mike Bloomberg’s ad budget) that the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA is Donald Trump’s fault. This is true in the most unambiguous manner. COVID-19 should be called the Trump virus, because the malevolent incompetence of Donald Trump and his administration have put us in the terrible situation we are in now.

It’s the Trump virus because:

(1) The first cases of COVID-19 were officially identified in the USA and the Republic of Korea on the same day (January 20th. Exactly one year before the new president is inaugurated — nice touch there). In the ROK, the epidemic appears to be ending, at least for the present. In the USA, it’s just getting started. The primary explanation for these catastrophically different outcomes is that the government of the ROK immediately mobilized to stop the virus, while Donald Trump spent weeks — the most critical possible weeks — claiming that concern about the virus was a Democrat hoax.

Right now we are flying blind because there’s no general testing regime, so we can’t identify and isolate hot spots for the disease. We have no testing regime because Donald Trump thought it was more important to keep “the numbers” (meaning of course his numbers) good, by not testing for the virus. No testing, no virus. He also claimed that there would soon be no cases in the USA at all, and, shortly after saying this, that it would disappear miraculously one day.

(2) Donald Trump fired the government’s pandemic response team, because . . . I mean who knows why: he did it, and now this decision by itself is literally killing lots of people. As always with Trump, a simple recitation of the facts sounds like the most unbelievable libel cooked up by malicious opponents, rather than, you know, what literally happened.

(3) Donald Trump has gotten rid of pretty much all the competent people that were ever in his administration in the first place, because he needs to be surrounded by sycophants who do nothing but praise his wonderful virtues at all times. This too ensured that the government’s response to a major public health crisis would be a total disaster.

(4) Donald Trump has put his imbecilic son in law in charge of formulating the government’s official response to COVID-19.

(5) Even as Trump was continuing to downplay the virus, key Republican senator Richard Burr was (in secret) telling big donors that it was going to be a national disaster.

COVID-19 is the Trump virus. It should be called that by every anti-Trump person in the country, because that’s what it is, as a practical matter.

As for any mewling that it’s somehow inappropriate to “politicize” a pandemic, pandemics are by nature political events, always and everywhere:

Diseases do not afflict societies in random and chaotic ways. They’re ordered events, because microbes selectively expand and diffuse themselves to explore ecological niches that human beings have created. Those niches very much show who we are—whether, for example, in the industrial revolution, we actually cared what happened to workers and the poor and the condition that the most vulnerable people lived in.

Cholera and tuberculosis in today’s world move along the fault lines created by poverty and inequality and the way in which, as a people, we seem to be prepared to accept that as somehow right and proper, or at least inevitable. But it’s also true that the way that we respond very much depends on our values, our commitments, and our sense of being part of the human race and not smaller units. When Bruce Aylward, who led the W.H.O. mission to China, came back to Geneva at the end of it and was asked a question very similar to the one you posed, he said that the major thing that needs to happen, if we are to be prepared now and in the future, is there has to be an absolutely fundamental change in our mind-set. We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity.

Yale history professor Frank Snowden, author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present.

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