Two hundred thousand people. That’s roughly the number of patients COVID-19 had infected in the United States by the beginning of April. And that number only continues to climb.
While other countries have begun to flatten their curve, the United States continues to see exponential infection rates that show no signs of stopping. As hope for a turnaround diminishes, it’s becoming more and more obvious that our system has failed us.
Times of stress bring out the best in people – and also the worst. Great leaders are defined by how they handle crisis, and Trump is showing why he is not one. His downplaying of the virus in the early stages has severely incapacitated the United States’ initial response, a stage critical for containment of infectious disease.
By the time he did recognize the threat, it was too little too late. COVID-19 had begun infecting thousands of Americans, making containment impossible.
Stating Trump has not handled this well would be an understatement, best proven by his press conferences. The erratic, confusing displays have been characterized by multiple attacks on journalists and denials of his own words. Instead of providing hope, it is nowhere to be seen. And it’s not only Trump, the coronavirus has exposed the lack of leadership that exists all around the country. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is being sued over his incompetent response to stopping an outbreak in his state. DeSantis finally issued stay-at-home orders on Wednesday. By then, the number of cases in Florida was nearing 8,000, including 101 deaths statewide.
As easy as it would be to say all of this would not be happening if Trump was in office, that simply is not true. There are institutional failures that have allowed the outbreak to spread, regardless of who the president is. On one hand, the bureaucracy in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention kept fast research from being done on the virus, and regulations that they failed to waive inhibited the private research sector as well.
On the other hand, past streamlining of the government’s pandemic response team left it staffed by the wrong people to properly do its job. And through all this, all levels of government are failing to provide health care workers with the supplies needed to administer care to the sick
Of course, much of the reason the pandemic continues to spread is the virus itself. Its highly contagious nature has proven tough to stop, and its deadliness is causing hospitals to be overwhelmed. While these times call for unity, we shouldn’t back down from holding our leaders accountable for their actions. Lives depend on their response, and now more than ever we need to demand more from them. Other countries are getting through this. We are not helpless against the spread. Let’s just hope it’s not too late.