For eight months, Americans have been asking what the Trump administration's national strategy is to combat the coronaviruspandemic. We finally have our answer: capitulation.
For weeks, the White House has been advancing a "herd immunity" approach of essentially letting the coronavirus infect the majority of the population. President Trump insists that the United States is "rounding the corner" despite record-breaking infection rates and rising hospitalizations. Trump continues to compare coronavirus with the flu and complains that the media spends too much time spent covering it. During the final presidential debate, Trump accusedformer vice president Joe Biden of wanting to "lock Americans in their basements for months on end."
None of this made sense. Public health experts have been forced to debunk each inaccurate and misleading statement. All the while, the Trump administration insisted that it has a plan.
How could this be? Well, now we have our answer. In a CNN interviewon Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated bluntly: "We're not going to control the pandemic." When pressed on why not, Meadows said the novel coronavirus "is a contagious virus just like the flu," and that "what we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don't die from this."
There it is. That's Trump's plan — to accept our fate and surrender to the virus. Cross our fingers and place all of our hopes on vaccines and therapies. In the meantime, live our lives as we did before, ignore the rising death count, and let the virus rip through our communities.
This approach explains so many of the Trump administration's otherwise contradictory actions. Why bother investing the resources to safely reopen schools if the goal isn't to prevent students and teachers from getting the coronavirus? Why increase testing capacity if we're not going to use the information to help stop the spread and all that it will do is make the administration "look bad"? Why conduct contact tracing, even for cases arising from the White House itself, if we're not trying to contain the virus?
Of course, this plan is riddled with problems. To begin with, a vaccine will be far from a silver bullet. Even if it offers, say, 75 percent protection, we will need other public health measures to reduce virus spread. Therapeutics, too, will have substantial limitations. A medication that reduces mortality by 50 percent means that many still will die, and those who survive may still live with long-term effects. Contrary to Trump's claims, there is no cure on the horizon. Prevention will still be the best medicine.
In addition, the most optimistic projection suggests that we will have a safe and effective vaccine distributed to Americans by the second or third quarter of 2021. We need to manage in other ways until then. A newly released model by the University of Washington finds that, at the current trajectory, the number of deaths will accelerate to more than 2,000 a day by December. Before the end of the winter, more than half a million Americans could die from the coronavirus.
That's what capitulation looks like. It isn't a strategy. It's a worst-case scenario.
The tragedy is that this scenario isn't inevitable. The same model estimates that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks, 130,000 lives would be saved. The false dichotomy that Trump puts forth, between a total lockdown and doing nothing, is dangerous. Targeted actions such as mask-wearing and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings could allow for economic recovery while also slowing the escalating infection.
But that's not the path the administration has chosen. The Trump White House has decided that the United States should surrender to the virus — that we're not going to even try anymore. Not only won't we have long-overdue national action such as a testing-and-tracing strategy, or federal standards around safe reopening, the administration is actively downplaying the seriousness of the virus. It is meeting the greatest public health crisis of our time with a shrug.
The United States is about to enter a phase of exponential spread. Infection rates will skyrocket; hospitals will once again be overwhelmed; and death rates will climb. We have a narrow window to stop this tidal wave, but we've just learned that our government has decided it is unwilling to use it. It's like learning a foreign enemy is planning an invasion that would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, and our elected leaders know how to stop it — but simply decided not to.
History will look back on this moment in disbelief and horror.
Dr. Lena S. Wen, Washington Post, October 26, 2020
Wen is a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, where she is the distinguished fellow of the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity. Previously, she served as Baltimore's health commissioner and led the nation's oldest continuously operating health department.
October 27, 2020
Voices4America Post Script. Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows- “We are not going to control the pandemic. “As Dr. Wen says, “It's like learning a foreign enemy is planning an invasion that would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, and our elected leaders know how to stop it — but simply decided not to.” #TrumpFailed #SaveAmericanLives #Vote #BidenHarris2020