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'A complete failing': Why experts think Trump missed his chance to crush the coronavirus outbreak

President Donald J. Trump listens as White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Deborah Birx delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Some of the European countries that suffered staggering death counts because of the coronavirus pandemic — including Italy and Spain — have greatly decreased their numbers of new infections thanks to a program of aggressive and comprehensive social distancing. The United States, however, continues to be the world’s #1 coronavirus hotspot. And journalist Oliver Milman, this week in an article for The Guardian, stresses that President Donald Trump’s woefully inept response to the crisis has undermined the United States’ ability to recover.

“Despite the inertia and dysfunction that plagued the early stages of the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the situation could still have been somewhat rescued if Donald Trump had merely backed the efforts of his own administration, public health experts say,” Milman laments. “Instead, Trump has shown little active leadership and frequently undermined government efforts and advice aimed at curbing the virus by encouraging reopening protests and refusing to wear a face mask.”

Trump, Milman laments, was much too quick to claim victory in a battle that is far from over. According to Andy Slavitt, former acting head of Medicare and Medicaid Services, Trump made a huge mistake by pressuring states to reopen when coronavirus still posed a major threat in the United States.

Slavitt told The Guardian, “Trump had a plan from Dr. (Deborah) Birx, and if he had asked for a little more patience from the public, we’d have a very different situation to now. But he was unwilling to do that. He couldn’t wait.”

Slavitt continued, “There’s no science saying taking a month off ends the virus. The way the virus works is that it goes to places it hasn’t been and infects people, and that’s happening again now. No one has an easy job in this, and there are tough decisions to make. But that’s where you need leadership. We’ve lacked that.”

Trump, according to Milman, showed poor leadership by refusing to wear a face mask. For example, Trump did put on a mask during a tour of a factory in Michigan, but he removed it in order to keep journalists from seeing him wearing one.

Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control, told The Guardian, “There’s been a complete failing in the national response. And to recommend mask wearing and then undermine it in the same press conference is the epitome of what’s gone wrong.”

According to Slavitt, “Trump could’ve worn a mask for four weeks, asked people on the other side of the aisle to do the same — and you’d get a dramatic reduction in the infection rate and start to operate very close to normal again. He would have a booming economy, very little virus and the closed borders, which he wants anyway. The public can take hard news if they are being given it straight, but Trump doesn’t do bad news. He can’t do the little bit of sacrifice to see it through.”

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