A comment by a friend on Facebook reminded me that it’s been exactly one month since Comrade Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House to make the following announcement:
“To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words.”
Two very big words, indeed. We’re talking a total of seven syllables here. But hey, he actually did it. He said the big words. National emergency. It was late in coming, but at least Trump did declare a national emergency because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was actually an important step.
Did he follow through with other necessary steps? Did he actually ‘unleash the full power of the federal government’? Not so much. Let’s take a look at some of the other things Trump said in his Rose Garden announcement. Every quote included in this post came from Trump’s announcement that day. You can look it up.
“Today we’re announcing a new partnership with private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus. We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly, and conveniently.”
It’s been a month and guess what. While more testing is being done, not all of those who need a test are actually getting a test. It’s not being done quickly, it’s not been conveniently. In fact, it’s been a massive cock-up. Not only are we NOT doing massive national testing, we’re not doing any sort of national contact tracing to determine who’s been exposed.
“We therefore expect up to a half a million additional tests will be available early next week.”
They weren’t available.
“[I]t’ll go very quickly; it’s going very quickly — which will bring, additionally, 1.4 million tests on board next week and 5 million within a month. I doubt we’ll need anywhere near that.”
Again, it’s been a month. It hasn’t gone quickly. We didn’t have a million and a half tests the following week. We still don’t have five million tests. We certainly need more than five million tests. Five million tests would only be enough to test about 1.5% of the population of the US.
“[W]e’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-thru tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals. The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.”
A month. Walmart has opened two testing sites — one in the Chicago area and another in Arkansas. Walgreens has two sites in Chicago. CVS has opened four sites. Target has said they’re “committed to offering our parking lot locations and supporting their efforts when they are ready to activate.” But so far nobody from the federal government has asked them to do anything or given them any direction. If you see drive-thru testing being done on the news, it’s almost certainly to be a state effort, not a federal one.
“Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location… Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now. They’ve made tremendous progress.”
Google wasn’t developing a website to do that. They didn’t have 1700 engineers working on it. This is what regular folks call ‘bullshit’.
“We can learn — and we will turn a corner on this virus. Some of the doctors say it will wash through, it will flow through. Interesting terms and very accurate. I think you’re going to find in a number of weeks it’s going to be a very accurate term.”
I have no idea what any of that means. Wash through? Flow through? Jesus suffering fuck, what? I mean, what?
“No nation is more prepared or more equipped to face down this crisis. As you know, we are rated number one in the world.”
Some of that is true. We are number one in the world — at least in terms of diagnosed Covid-19 cases (over half a million now) and Covid-19 deaths (over twenty-two thousand at this point). But we were not — and we still are not — more prepared or more equipped than any other nation. The Trump administration has consistently fucked this up, and it appears they’ll continue to fuck it up.
After making his announcement, Comrade Trump took questions from journalists.
Question: “Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, “a failing.” Do you take responsibility for that?”
Trump: “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all… And we — we’ll have — we’ll have the ability to do in the millions over a very, very quick period of time. So, no.”
It’s been a month. We still don’t have the ability to test in the millions. But whether or not Trump accepts responsibility for the lag in testing, he’s still responsible.
Question: “Mr. President, the last administration said that they had tested a million people at this point. You’ve been president for three years…”
Trump: “Well, ask them how they did with the swine flu. It was a disaster. Next, please. Next, please. They had a very big failure with the swine flu. A very big failure.”
The first US case of the H1N1 virus was confirmed on April 15, 2009. On April 26, when there were only 20 confirmed cases, the Obama administration declared a public health emergency and started releasing medical supplies and drugs from the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile. On April 28, the first test to detect the H1N1 virus was approved by the FDA; shipments of the new test began May 1. This was six weeks before the World Health Organization declared H1N1 to be a pandemic. In October, six months after the Obama administration declared a public health emergency, they expanded it to a national emergency, which allowed hospitals to move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect non-infected patients. At that point in time there were 5,712 deaths worldwide; approximately 1800 deaths in the US. That’s NOT a failure. That’s success.
Question: You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House pandemic office, and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So what responsibility do you take to that?
Trump: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question because what we’ve done is — and Tony has said numerous times that we’ve saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say “me,” I didn’t do it. We have a group of people I could –I could ask perhaps — my administration — but I could perhaps ask Tony about that because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say — you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it. It’s the — it’s the administration. Perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen. We’re doing a great job.”
That certainly wasn’t a ‘nasty’ question, but there’s something very nearly correct in Trump’s answer. He personally didn’t fire Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer as chief of the global health security team on the National Security Council. That was done by National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton dismantled and reassigned the entire NSC directorate for global health and security. Trump, though, DID cut funding for the CDC. As a result, Trump’s head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, reduced the number of countries included in the CDC’s program to prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics. Under Obama, the program included forty-nine countries. Trump reduced the number to ten. China, where the novel coronavirus originated, was among the countries eliminated.
Trump was very likely telling the truth when he said, “I don’t know anything about it.” But he should have known. A national security unit isn’t disbanded without the approval of the president. Either nobody told him (which is possible, since Trump is notoriously incurious about such things), or somebody told him and he approved it (which is also possible), or somebody told him and he didn’t understand what they were telling him (which is probable). In any event, Trump should have known he’d done away with his global health and security team.
To be clear, Comrade Trump isn’t to blame for Covid-19. He IS, however, responsible for the federal government’s response. He IS to blame for the lack of preparation, for the lack of leadership, and for the lack of equipment necessary to slow the spread of the disease.
It’s been a month since he declared a national emergency. He’s never treated the pandemic like an emergency. He’s treated it like a public relations problem.