The United States vs. the pandemic

_Noah Ashe_, _Op-Ed Writer_

A chaotic and incompetent federal response coupled with a growing misinformation campaign by the White House and conservative media have contributed to the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

At the time of this writing, there have been more than 2.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases spread across 177 countries with over 172,000 deaths, according to The New York Times’ coronavirus map. These numbers are only likely to increase. In the United States, the number of confirmed cases is well over 805,000 and deaths have increased to over 40,000. While some parts of the country have started to see their numbers plateau, such as hard-hit New York state, other parts of the country have seen significant increases in both the number of cases and deaths. It will take a strong and unified response on the part of the federal government to control this pandemic.

However, we are woefully under-prepared. Much of the fault for this rests on the shoulders of the Trump administration and federal government. I am angry, I am exhausted and I am disappointed. But most of all, I cannot say I’m surprised by any of this.

Since the pandemic first arrived to the U.S. in late January, the president and his administration have demonstrated their incompetence at the worst time to do so. COVID-19 does not discriminate against those it infects. Now is not the time for an inept federal response or distributing misinformation.

Apparently, I’m asking for too much. States, not the federal government, have now taken the lead in the nation’s response to the virus. While the Trump administration talks of “reopening” the country’s economy for business, infections and deaths continue to mount in the U.S. I’m not sure if conservatives realize this, but you cannot reopen the economy if all of your consumers are either sick or dead.

According to The New York Times, the only state that is currently conducting enough tests to safely reopen its economy is our very own Rhode Island. Even still, Gov. Gina Raimondo has signaled that she remains cautious and will take all steps needed to protect Rhode Islanders. In order to safely reopen the country nationally, the U.S. would need to significantly increase testing by at least three times the current number. As of right now, we simply do not have enough tests.

I wish more states would respond like Rhode Island has over the way that other states have, such as Florida and Georgia, led by Republican governors who have since moved to reopen beaches and reopen businesses.

I do not and will not ever understand how the president of the U.S. is able to use his immense power and platform to disseminate misinformation and outright lies regarding a potential treatment for the virus, outlined in an article from The Guardian, moving to sideline the only competent person on the government’s response team, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He has already opened a committee to “Reopen America” that does not include a single public health official. Moreover, I do not understand how and why the president is encouraging people to “liberate” their states from these restrictions that are designed to keep the public safe.

Please stop marching in the streets to protest your “rights” that are not under attack. By protesting and assembling in large numbers, this further serves to spread the virus and only continues to delay the efforts of our healthcare system to get the virus under control.

Time and time again, we have seen that conservative policies and solutions do not work in times of a global pandemic, or just in general. “Dying for the DOW” and sacrificing millions of Americans for the sake of the economy does not “Make America Great Again.” As a matter of fact, I was stunned to hear that argument time and time again from conservative outlets such as Fox and OAN, only to be picked up by the White House. 

In the meantime, buckle down and get ready for a long, not so “hot girl summer.” It is likely that we will have to continue social distancing for some time to come and a return to normalcy is still far away from now, a possibility expressed by Harvard scientists in Johnny Wood’s article in the World Economic Forum. Continue to be safe and healthy and avoid going out to protest for your “rights” that are not being attacked.

Some will write this off as an attack against the president. However, this issue is much bigger than Trump and his Republican allies. Rather, it is a critique of our current broken political and economic systems and the product of years of mismanagement and neglect. The issues in our systems long predate COVID-19. However, it has taken a pandemic for many to finally see these inherent flaws.

I remain hopeful in light of what has happened. I am hopeful that we will be able to dramatically reform and change our broken political and economic systems. However, I am not holding my breath.