He Lied and People Died

“This is deadly stuff.”

Donald J. Trump on 7 February 2020 to journalist Bob Woodward

In the course of writing his book Rage, Bob Woodward talked directly with the president eighteen times and recorded those conversations with Mr. Trump’s permission and knowledge.  The tapes and available excerpts from the book clearly show that Mr. Trump knew from the beginning that the coronavirus was deadly and yet he continually took no action and played down the threat through much of January, February and March.  In important ways he still ignores the severity of the crisis.

Mr. Trump clearly is not responsible for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his belated and inconsistent response cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives.

The timeline of Mr. Trump’s private statements to Mr. Woodward, matched up with his public statements about the state of the pandemic, demonstrates his callous disregard for American lives and his deliberate deception to prevent coherent actions in the early days of the crisis.

For example, Mr. Trump was briefed by his National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien that “this will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.  This is going to be the roughest thing you face.”  His Deputy added that this was going to be at least as bad as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide.

The briefing was given to him on 28 January 2020.  On 7 February he told Mr. Woodward,

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.  And that’s a very tricky one.  That’s a very delicate one.  It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.  This is deadly stuff.”

Meanwhile on 26 February he compared the coronavirus to the flu and talked about how much worse the flu was in our country.  He downplayed the threat and again compared it favorably to the flu on 9 March.

On 19 March he told Mr. Woodward,

“Now it’s turning out it’s just not old people, Bob.  Just today and yesterday some startling facts came out.  It’s not just old — it’s plenty of young people.”

On 24 March, 6 May and 5 August he downplayed the threat to young people and focused primarily on the threat to senior citizens.  In fact, during an interview in August he said,

“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease.  They don’t have a problem.  They just don’t have a problem.”

There is more, but you get the idea.  I suppose it should not be surprising that a president that lied over 20,000 times while in office continually lies about the pandemic.  But the brazen, uncaring, callous way he treated our society is breathtaking.  In the excerpts of the tapes that I have heard, I am struck most of all by the nonchalance and indifference in his voice.  He truly does not care.

His avowed reason for lying to all of us (he calls it “downplaying” the impact) is that he did not want the public to “panic.”  That would be hilarious if the results were not so horrifying.  This from a president that creates fear and campaigns on panic be it “MS-13 caravans” flooding the border, or “destroying the suburbs” or a hundred other things he has injected into our lives.

The only panic he was trying to prevent was a panic in the markets on Wall Street.  He tied his reelection to the economy and he was afraid that if he told the truth, if they took the required precautions early, that there would be an economic impact.  He thought he could ride it out and therefore took no action.

Put this in perspective.  According to a Columbia University study, if social distancing efforts had been put in place even just one week earlier (8 March instead of 15 March) 36,000 lives in the U.S. would have been saved and there would have been 700,000 fewer infections.

That is still a month after Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward that “this is deadly stuff.”

Remember, since he was briefed in January about how the coronavirus spreads, Mr. Trump conducted campaign rallies, belittled people that wore masks, pushed for restaurants and bars to open, recommended injecting bleach into bodies, pushed hydroxychloroquine and generally brushed off all of the known precautions to stop its spread.

Based on his words and actions in pushing to reopen the economy, millions of Americans forswore masks and social distancing, gathered in bars, partied hearty, and otherwise facilitated the spread of the disease and the consequences we still feel over seven months after Mr. Trump knew the dangers inherent in this new disease.

Every American, Trump supporter or not, should be outraged.  It is not hyperbole to say that his actions and inactions, with full knowledge of the threat, resulted in the loss of life.

Just as bad, his staff and advisers had the same information and said nothing.  Shame on them all.  They are just as guilty.

Mr. Trump failed in his primary duty as president.  The president first and foremost must put the health, safety and security of all of us above all else.  He still refuses to do so.  His enablers continue to lie for him, cover up for him, and allow him to put himself above all.  He insults us by saying he was just trying to be a “cheerleader” for our country.  His enablers say he was just doing what any good leader does by projecting a calm demeanor.  They even dare to compare him to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Hogwash.

Their words and actions are despicable.  Tell that to the families and friends of the nearly 200,000 dead Americans.

He lied and people died.

 


Groundhog Day

For quite some time now, life seems like an episode in the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”  Day after day after day we hear the same things.  If you watch the news regularly at some point during the day, an expert clinician, a physician or a nurse in an overwhelmed hospital, an established epidemiologist or other recognized health care expert will come on to be asked how to stop the spread of Covid-19.  Given that we have passed 4.5 million cases and 155,000 American deaths since 1 March, it is an important question.  The response, day after day, is to wear a face covering, social distance, wash one’s hands and don’t hang out in large crowds especially inside.  Not hard.  Every day there is also someone who recovers after a severe bout of Covid and says “I thought it was a hoax.”  Or, “I’m young and I didn’t think it would really be that bad.  But it was.  The worst feeling in my entire life.”  Sadly, we often hear the loved one of a person dead from Covid say something similar.

I can only think that we are a country of morons or losers or both.  How hard is it?  We know what to do.  Why don’t we do it?

Today’s news is that the virus is spreading into every corner of the United States.  It is only a matter of time and it is going to be bad.  Real bad.  In just the last week alone there were 453,659 new cases in the United States and the rate of hospitalizations grows everyday.  Over the last six days we averaged 1,233 deaths a day.  At that rate we will have approximately 37,000 more Americans dead by the end of August.  Remember when people thought that estimates of a 100,000 deaths total from this pandemic was considered to be too high and a lot of hyperbole to scare people?  At the current rate we will be at or over 200,000 dead around Labor Day.  Time to celebrate the beginning of fall!

Increasing numbers of experts (you know, real ones like scientists and doctors not the ones that say to inject bleach into your lungs) believe that we need to start over from the beginning.  Reset the stage.  Shutdown uniformly across the United States for 4-6 weeks — an actual shutdown, not a “if you want to” shutdown — to stop the spread and to be able to have a significant drop in cases so that “testing, tracing, isolation” actually has a chance to change the equation.

But no, I’m bored. I don’t want to do this anymore.  I think I’ll hang out with all my friends for a little pandemic party.  Haven’t seen you for awhile.  Here’s a hug for you and a hug for you and a little Covid for you, and hey buddy, here’s a little Covid for you too.  And then be surprised when people get sick.

It turns out that we cannot merely wish it away or ignore it.  It is not business as usual.

On top of the pandemic, but because of it, our economy is in the proverbial toilet.  For the quarter ending 30 June, the U.S. saw the worst decline for a single quarter since at least 1875 — perhaps in the history of the U.S.  Way to go guys!  We even beat the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Don’t worry, though.  The Senate is on top of it.  The House passed a bill back in the middle of May to extend unemployment benefits, protect people from being evicted because they can’t pay their rent and other assistance for those that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  Called the Heroes Act (H.R.6800), it passed and was sent to the Senate on 20 May.  And sat. And sat. And as of 31 July, all the worker benefits passed by Congress to help the economy during the pandemic expired.  But rest assured, someday the Senate will act to help those in need.  Maybe.  They don’t want people to get too comfortable with this easy lifestyle.

One of the main concerns of those critical of the Heroes Act is that it continues the $600 weekly supplement to existing state unemployment insurance.  The argument is that it is too much because people can make more money by staying home rather than by going to work, which is why some businesses are struggling to reopen.  Let’s take a closer look.

Yes, the money is in addition to state unemployment, but most states pay roughly 35 to 40% of one’s salary up to a limit that varies by state.  However, when you do the math, $600 breaks down to $15/hour for a 40 hour work week.  As a national average, babysitters make $20.30 an hour for two kids. Not exactly the stuff of aspiring millionaires.

Such thinking also avoids the difficult issues.  Perhaps people staying home and not exposing themselves or their families during a pandemic is a good thing.  It helps to stop the spread of the virus.  Additionally, the “too generous” argument ignores other issues such as those workers are staying home because they may not have access to child care during the pandemic or because with schools closed, they need to stay home and help give their kids an education.  Perhaps they rely on public transportation which has been halted or is experiencing severe service cuts due to the pandemic.  Maybe it’s all of those and more.  And of course it presumes that their place of business reopened and is willing to hire them back.

With the economy already in the dumpster how is it going to recover if people don’t have any money to spend?  Have you seen the food lines around the country? (In the 30’s they were called bread lines but now you can stay in your car and also get a healthier selection of food!  Isn’t progress amazing?)  In the greatest country on earth?  Yep.  A bunch of freeloaders according to some.

Perhaps you could just follow Ivanka Trump’s new initiative for out of work Americans to “Find Something New.”  In her position as a Senior Adviser to the President she is advocating that roughly 15 million unemployed Americans go back to school, or develop IT skills or use on-line learning or sign on to learn a new skill as an apprentice (no she was not referring to her role on a TV show).  Mostly, her initiative is just a web site with links to a lot of other web sites with information that has been out in the public for months or years.

As my favorite saying goes, “Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it.”

As I predicted back in April, in this country it’s every person for themselves.  There is no political will to institute the steps needed to get the pandemic under control.  Without that active effort, the economy cannot recover.  All those bars and other super spreader events will eventually close again when a large amount of their patrons and employees are sick or dead.  But, hey!  It was great while it lasted.

Dire measures are needed.  It will hurt, it won’t be fun, it isn’t what we want but unless you want one of your friends or family to get sick and possibly die, suck it up.


Coming Soon To A City Near You

Events unfolding around the country are the previews for coming attractions, and it won’t be fun.  To look at what is happening in Portland Oregon one might see a trial run for more such activity — currently announced for, or underway in, Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque.

Going forward, remember that this is all right from the autocracy 101 hand book.  I will explain my thinking in this piece, but two major things are happening.  One is that Mr. Donald J. Trump is trying to get video to support his campaign claim that the cities are out of control and that “only I can fix it.”  Second, and far more ominously, he is laying the ground work for declaring martial law leading into the election.  Mr. Trump and his campaign know that he cannot win solely through the support of his base.  He needs to keep people from voting for his opponent — voter suppression — and one way to do that is to intimidate the electorate and to make it too hard to vote.  It is an election strategy that comes at the expense of American cities and their citizens.  It threatens the very foundation of our democracy.

As a reminder, federal law enforcement units in full combat gear have been on the streets in Portland for about ten days.  Theoretically, they are there to protect the federal court house from protesters.  In fact, they have been patrolling the streets of the city picking up people that look like they might be willing to foment trouble.  Let’s dive into this further.

The federal government has a duty and a right to protect federal property from destruction.  In cases such as the court house in Portland, this would normally entail coordinating with the local city and state authorities for a cohesive plan and would amount to a defensive — rather than offensive — effort to keep trouble makers away.  None of this is happening.  There is no apparent coordination with local authorities — indeed the mayor and governor have explicitly asked  those forces to leave — and they are definitely using offensive tactics with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and other agents against the crowd.  To be sure, there are trouble makers in the ranks of the protesters.  However, the vast majority are peaceful.  Additionally, with proper techniques and coordination, peaceful protesters are likely to cooperate in identifying the bad apples in the crowd as it is in the best interests of the other protesters to keep it peaceful and to not provoke an over reaction by law enforcement.  By all credible accounts, after weeks of protests, the demonstrations in Portland had settled into a peaceful occasion and were slowly dwindling in size.  That is until the federal authorities arrived and began using their storm trooper tactics.  In military combat gear, the federal authorities wear no name tags or unit identification badges, only a small generic “police” tag on their camos.  Reportedly, they are from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  One might ask who is guarding our borders from the supposed hoards coming across from Mexico if they are in Portland?  One might also ask what training these particular agencies give to their agents regarding community policing?

If you think it is an exaggeration, look at this video of a Navy veteran trying to talk to some of the agents and getting beaten and pepper sprayed while not even raising his arms or making any threatening movements.

All of this on its own is bad.  Very bad.  But it portends worse things to come.  Remember Mr. Trump’s words earlier this week.

“I’m going to do something, that I can tell you.  Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess.  We’re not going to let this happen in our country.  Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats.  All run, really, by the radical left.”

So, first of all, only Democrat mayors are “bad.”  Secondly, there are currently no violent demonstrations in Philadelphia, Detroit or Baltimore or other cities he is going to “dominate.”  This is pure, unabashed partisan politics using federal law enforcement agencies for his personal gain.

Additionally, the hypocrisy is all too familiar.  The rationale behind the Portland deployment is to protect against citizens expressing their First Amendment rights on federal property.  In 2018 Mr. Trump gave full pardons to two Oregonians — father and son — that set fire in 2016 to 139 acres of federal land during Red Flag Warning conditions, endangering firefighters working on another fire nearby.  It resulted in a 40 day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by protesters supporting their cause.  He considered these men to be patriots.  Peaceful protesters in cities are considered to be criminals.

As I have written in this space before, I was very involved in figuring out Saddam Hussein’s next moves during Gulf War I.  We figured out after awhile that he pretty much always announced what he intended to do.  He couldn’t always carry it out, but he was pretty straightforward in his pronouncements.  Mr. Trump is the same way.  He announces exactly what he plans to do.

Here is the diabolical back drop to his strategy.  In my 8 May piece “American Carnage” I wondered aloud about how Mr. Trump could have so badly botched the national response to the pandemic and opined that perhaps it was deliberate.  I am now sure of it.  He did not create the pandemic, but he is going to use it to his advantage.  Similarly, he will use the Black Lives Matter movement to declare that they are terrorists working to destroy America.  He already barely hides his racism in this regard.  Yesterday in a speech he blamed Mexico (again) and the BLM protests for the spread of the Coronavirus in the South and Southwest.  He repeatedly declares that if the Democrats win the election, they will “destroy the suburbs,” a not-so-subtle racist canard.

Many pundits and political experts, as well as average citizens, have wondered for weeks and months why Mr. Trump refuses to put forward a national effort to halt the pandemic and to address racial injustice.  It dawned on me yesterday that as former Maryland Lt. Governor and National Republican Chairman Michael Steele explained on TV yesterday — this is his plan.  In other words, he will use the chaos currently engulfing our country to his advantage.  He will trot out again his beliefs that the the Constitution gives him “absolute power” and that “I alone can fix it.”  These will form the basis for action on his part to interfere in an election that he is already claiming — nearly daily — is rigged.  He is against mail-in ballots (even though he, his family, many of his aides and many service members vote by mail) and has installed a long-time ally as Postmaster General.  Mail bags mysteriously disappearing?  Mail trucks mysteriously bursting into flames?  The imagination can run wild.

The point is that we will not succumb to an outright coup on his part.  It will be gradual with incremental decisions and policies that set the stage for him to declare the election invalid and that he must stay on to save the country.  He is on record multiple times, most recently in his Fox News interview with Mike Wallace, that he will not accept the outcome of the election if he thinks it’s rigged.  Asked directly if he would accept the results he said,

“I have to see.  Look — I have to see.  No, I’m not just going to say yes.  I’m not going to say no.”

Since many of the states will use mail-in ballots, it could be days or weeks before the official results are in.  If the election is close as the polls close on Election Night, and the results change dramatically against Mr. Trump when the absentee, provisional and other ballots are counted, he could well declare the entire election a fraud and cancel it.  He is on record with the 2018 Florida election — which was very close and looked as if it would go against his preferred candidates — as saying that only ballots counted on Election Day should be valid.  He tweeted without offering a single piece of evidence,

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged.  An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected.  Must go with Election Night.”

Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis both won their races.

We already know that Mr. Trump will do anything that benefits him.  There is no ethical, moral or legal bottom for him.  He now has an Attorney General that acts as his personal attorney and shares Mr. Trump’s belief in an Imperial Presidency.

The U.S. military put Mr. Trump on notice after they were used in a political stunt at Lafayette Square in Washington D.C. for his bible thumping campaign photo op that they would not be used for political purposes.  Thus, Mr. Trump went to his flunkies in DHS (the top position and most of the sub-agencies are headed by “acting” leaders that do not have Senate approval) in order to create his own personal police force to pursue his personal goals.

Some may think that this is a “Chicken Little” scenario.  Alarmist.  Couldn’t happen here.  That’s not America.  Stop hyperventilating.  No way.  I hope that you are correct.  Personally, I am watching out for our “Reichstag Fire” moment.

 

 

 


The Mystery of Masks

As the number of deaths in the U.S. from the Coronavirus passes 140,000 (a number that just a few months ago would have been unthinkable), experts — actual doctors and scientists knowledgeable in the subject, not politicians — nearly unanimously agree that wearing a mask in public would significantly decrease the transmission of the disease and give us a chance to get it under control.  A seemingly innocuous precaution that is not a particular burden.  And yet.  Somehow it has become a major political issue often resulting in rude and belligerent behavior and sometimes, violence.

“No shirt, no shoes, no service” is an iconic sign posted in restaurants and shops around the country, especially in tourist or beach areas.  No one seems to have a problem with that requirement.  A sign that says “Please wear a mask in the store” somehow elicits the vulgar expression “F*** You!” and worse.  Somehow a mask has become an alleged Constitutional issue although I am hard pressed to find a single Constitutional scholar that can delineate how a mask worn to protect us all from a virulent disease is impinging on anyone’s rights.

Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas and many other countries around the world will not allow tourists from the U.S. into their countries or requires them to quarantine because of our extremely poor record in combating the pandemic.  We are now the “dirty, disease spreading” refugees shunned by the rest of the world.

I look at it this way.  Not wearing a mask is like drunk driving.  Perhaps if you do it you will make it home safely, but you have endangered yourself, your family, friends, and everyone that you encounter on the way.  Chances are you will kill some innocent person just doing their best, going home from picking up the kids or a quick run to the grocery for some milk.  It is in the public good that we crack down hard on drunk drivers.  It is in the public good that we all wear masks.

Unfortunately, we have a growing number of selfish folks that can give any number of reasons why they do not mask up, none of which hold any credible explanation other than the fact that they are so self-centered that they are entitled to do whatever they want, the rest of us be damned.

With such a blatant disregard of the community and social welfare in mind, we will never get this pandemic under control.  Ironically, we know exactly how to get the situation under control and begin to safely open up schools and businesses, but no one seems to want to do it, least of all our political leaders.

In a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, the president expounded about all sorts of issues for an hour.  No description I can give here would do justice to the amount of lies, misstatements and delusional thinking that went on during the interview.  To his credit, Mr. Wallace held Mr. Trump accountable during his ramblings and fact-checked him on several issues in real time.

Specifically with respect to the ongoing pandemic Mr. Trump said, among other things, that we only have so many cases because we do more testing than anybody (tests are up 37 percent and the number of cases are up 194 percent according to Fox News); but that is okay because, according to Mr. Trump, “many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day. They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test.  Many of them — don’t forget, I guess it’s like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they’re going to get better very quickly”; responding to a question about his multiple statements that the coronavirus will just disappear Mr. Trump said “I’ll be right eventually”; and so on.  Really, I recommend that you read the transcript for yourself and think about the fact that this man controls the nuclear codes.  But I digress.

When asked specifically about wearing masks and whether there should be a national mandate to wear them, as has been done in the countries around the world that have a far better handle on this pandemic than we do, he said,

“No, I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that [wearing masks].  No, and I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask everything disappears.”

And there we have it.  There is no national strategy to combat the pandemic and the person that should be setting the example and showing leadership in a crisis refuses to step up.  Some state governors take their cue from Mr. Trump and so there are cases like in Georgia where the governor is suing the mayor of Atlanta because she put out a mandatory mask order to help alleviate the crisis in her city.  And on and on and on and yet we wonder why we are having a problem.

We are apparently a nation of idiots (Covidiots) that think some how taking measures to stop the spread of a killer disease is violating their right to do whatever they want.  They should take a high school civics class and study what the word “freedom” really means in the United States of America.  It most definitely is not the right to do whatever one likes.

Here is my bottom line that should stop everyone in their tracks.  We are 4.3% of the world’s population and we have 24% of the deaths from the pandemic.  To quote the great philosopher Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.”


Testing Kills

“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”

Donald J. Trump on 15 June speaking of the number of coronavirus cases.

Really?  Just like if we stopped pregnancy tests there would be no more pregnancies?  Or if there were no cancer tests there would be no more cancer?

I suppose that I should not be surprised at Mr. Trump’s comments by now.  He failed every leadership test that the pandemic threw his way so what would change now?  His plan seems to be to pretend that there is nothing wrong and to resume business as usual.  What else to expect from the Worst President Ever?

Just when you think it cannot get any worse, of course it does.  As we know, Mr. Trump decided that the best way to prevent anyone thinking that we still have a COVID-19 problem is to pretend that we don’t by holding a rally with some 20,000 people in a closed space in a state that is one of the current pandemic hot spots.

Unfortunately, this appears to be the strategy for the entire Trump administration.  Yesterday Vice President Mike Pence authored an article in the Wall Street Journal that said, in part:

“In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections.  Such panic is overblown.  Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”

Most public health officials agree that we are not in a second wave of the pandemic.  They believe that we are still in the early stages of infections and that the second wave is a few months away.  This of course, is page one of Mr. Trump’s playbook.  When things are not going well, yell “hey everybody, look over there, the nasty media is at it again.  Pay no attention to my incompetence.”  Most preposterously, the Vice President went on the claim that:

The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different.  We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future.  That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.”

“Cause for celebration”?  Shameful.

The man is pandering to one man and one man only.  Mr. Trump.

On March 15 of this year there were roughly 60 deaths known to be a result of the pandemic.  As I write, we have more than 119,000 Americans dead.  Americans dead.  In three months.  And we should celebrate?

By any measure we have failed in this crisis.  Take any metric that you choose; total deaths, total cases, deaths per capita, whatever, and the USA is in on the wrong side of the power curve.  There are 7.94 million known cases in the world.  The US has 2.18 million of them.  Roughly 28% of the world’s cases.  There are 435,000 deaths world wide.  The US has about 119,000 of them.  Roughly 27% of them.  In what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world with the greatest scientists, doctors and public health facilities we are doing very poorly indeed.

But, yeah, go to Oklahoma and celebrate.

Following the administration’s logic as espoused by the President and Vice President, if there were no testing there would be no coronavirus deaths.  Therefore, testing kills.  We should stop testing immediately.

 


American Carnage

During his 2016 Inaugural Address, Mr. Donald J. Trump talked about “American carnage” — a dystopian view of the United States that he promised to fix.  Little did we know that actually he was predicting the future.  Our country is in shambles and disarray and the Trump Administration does nothing.

Mr. Trump and his cronies are trying out two strategies moving forward during the pandemic caused by the coronavirus:

  1. Declare victory and go home.  We could have lost 2 million Americans and it looks like we’ll only lose about 150,000 so, as Mr. Jared Kushner said from the White House last week, people should recognize “that this is a great success story.”  The number of deaths is exaggerated anyway.  Open up business because a dragging economy could cost the president the election.
  2. Make the case that all Americans are “warriors” that are fighting to regain the American way of life just like in WWI or WWII and of course there will be casualties along the way. This is war and people die in wars.  Get over it.  Open up business because a dragging economy could cost the president the election.

Meanwhile, over 77,212 Americans are dead.  The virus is spreading into areas that have yet to feel the full brunt of the pandemic.  There is no widespread testing, tracing or methodical isolation.  I have concluded that for most Americans, we are on our own.  We will get no help from the government.  We will have to make personal choices as to what is safe and what is not.  As the song playing in the background during Mr. Trump’s factory visit in Arizona says, “Live and Let Die.”

The federal government, as a reflection of Mr. Trump, has failed miserably in fighting the pandemic.  Mr. Trump’s leadership has been inept, incompetent, divisive, vindictive, callous, resentful and antagonistic.  He’s worked hard to win the award as The Worst President Ever.  In fact, in my feverish mind with too much time on my hands, I believe he has worked too hard to reach this level of destruction throughout the land.  It cannot just be incompetence and a failure to learn from what works or does not.  It has to be deliberate.  Why is that?  Why would he work so hard to destroy the U.S.A.?

There are several possibilities.

  • It is deliberate.  Mr. Trump did not invent the coronavirus or introduce into the U.S.  Once here, however, perhaps he seized the opportunity to use it to fundamentally disrupt our way of life and to bring us down in the eyes of the world — no longer the greatest country on Earth.  There is, after all, a reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted Mr. Trump to be president.  Why would Mr. Trump call Mr. Putin when news broke that General Michael Flynn’s prosecution was dropped by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as he did yesterday?  What were they celebrating?  Did the Russians work on Mr. Trump’s behalf for the opportunity to destroy us?
  • It is a sign that Mr. Trump is mentally ill.  I don’t mean this in any “the dude’s cray cray” kind of way.  I mean it in a serious, albeit judgmental, way that he is ill.  He is a known narcissist.  He claims he is a stable genius.  He acts irrationally.  He has no empathy for the tens of thousands dead.  He seriously suggested that people should inject cleaning disinfectants into their bodies to fight the virus.  He fires anyone that disagrees with him.  He lied about the magnitude of the threat.  He is vengeful.  He seems to enjoy chaos and dysfunction.  Perhaps he enjoys playing a bigger than life figure that commands death or salvation based on his whims.  Perhaps he enjoys the harm done to people, especially, it seems, in “blue” states.  Perhaps he is not just a text book case study of a bad leader but rather an unstable individual emotionally, intellectually and mentally unfit for the office.
  • It furthers his agenda.  The sad statistics are that a disproportionate number of the COVID-19 sufferers and especially deaths are immigrants, minorities and the poor.  For four years, Mr. Trump has raged about the “other” — those not “like us.”  He supports armed white militia members storming state capitals with their guns to insist on “liberation” from the safer at home policies around the country.  In his eyes they are “very good people.”  Just like the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Mr. Trump tends to emphasize that many of those dying are old or with underlying health conditions.  They use the old “they were going to die anyway” meme.  Is this a chance to cull the herd in his mind just as some of these far right groups argue?  Under the cover of the pandemic his administration has implemented draconian measures at the border, denied asylum seekers respite as required by U.S. law, and limited legal immigration — all outside of and in addition to the travel restrictions in place.  From the moment he declared his candidacy for president in front of paid supporters he has railed against non-white (and for that matter non-male) members of our society.  Kids in cages anyone?  What he may or may not believe in his heart does not matter.  His actions are clear.
  • He cares only about himself and making money.  He honestly does not care how many Americans die or struggle financially as long as it does not impact him negatively.  Perhaps he sees an opportunity to profit financially off of the pandemic.  In short, he is an opportunist.  At the very least, Mr. Trump sees a chance to consolidate his position and to remove any impediments to his power within the government and to replace good people with lackeys.  Many Inspectors’ General professional life expectancy is measured in the amount of time before they do their job and call a foul on Mr. Trump.  There are gaping holes in the diplomatic corps and in every cabinet agency in the government.  Mr. Trump claims he does not need them.  Those that are left are not the A-Team or even the B-Team.  It is more like F-Troop.  At this point in time, it is obviously part of the plan to eliminate the “Deep State” as he sees it.  He does not care that the Deep State (of course there is no such thing) of professionals and experts are needed in times of crisis.  Jared Kushner will take care of it.  The pandemic covers nicely for an ever more blatant power grab beyond what we have seen over the last few years.  Mr. Trump has learned that he can get away with anything without consequences.

There may be other scenarios that may be equally plausible or outrageous.  The bottom line is that our national response to the crisis was badly bungled and continues to be an embarrassment.  The sad part is that this not nuances of policy.  People are dying.  The numbers continue to go up.  Many more will die as more and more states are pushed by Mr. Trump to ignore CDC guidelines and to open up their economies without the testing, tracing and isolation infrastructure in place.

Pay attention to what he says and does.  We have learned that he projects his personal feelings onto others and in the process of his complaining he tells us exactly what he intends to do to further destroy the norms, regulations and laws that govern our day to day discourse.

At one point I thought maybe we had Ted Baxter from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show as president.  Ted was not deliberately a loose cannon, he just had no clue. Unfortunately, this is serious business.

Deliberate or not, Mr. Trump changed the American way of life well into the future, if not forever.


The Wrong Leader At The Wrong Time

Earlier this month I opined that Donald J. Trump was the worst president ever in our great country.  I have had nearly two weeks to reconsider that opinion and upon sober reflection I concluded that I was right.  He has only done more and more to solidify in my mind that he is, without doubt, the worst ever.

Besides demonstrating his total lack of intellectual ability or common sense by advocating for the ingestion of cleaning fluids to rid the lungs of the coronavirus (I hope that Mrs. Trump has child proof locks on the bleach cabinets in their house) and advocating for the revocation of journalists “Noble” Prizes (not a typo as he repeated it more than once — it appears he meant “Nobel” Prize but the actual award is a Pulitzer Prize in journalism), he continues to show a blinding lack of any leadership or organizational ability.  Perhaps we are lucky, in one sense, as his professed managerial acumen resulted in six bankruptcies.  A stable genius, indeed.  But then, what should we expect from a man that tells lies as easily as he breathes?  To date Mr. Trump told over 18,000 lies since assuming office.  Maybe that was cute, or Trump being Trump when he was holding his campaign rallies.  We are long past that.  Now, his lies are costing people their lives.  His response?  “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

We have no national effort to combat the biggest health threat to our country since 1918 and the biggest threat to our economy since the Great Depression.  Instead, we have a hodge-podge of fifty different governors trying their best to provide for their citizens.  Some are doing way better than others.  I live in one state on the East Coast so I cannot pretend to know what is best for the folks in the Dakotas or Kansas or Oregon, but we all know that the COVID-19 knows no boundaries and cares not about one’s ethnicity, social status or wealth.  The virus is truly an equal opportunity killer.

It is not an East Coast or West Coast phenomenon.  On a per capita basis, at the moment the worst hit county in the country is Lincoln County Arkansas.  The second worst is Bledsoe Tennessee.  Three counties in New York state are in the top ten but other top ten counties are in Nebraska, Iowa, and two in Ohio.

Yet, we continue to pretend that the worst is behind us even as the experts tell us the worst is still ahead.  Think of that.  As I write we are approaching one million people in the U.S. known to have been infected, roughly one-third of all known cases in the world.  The death count in the U.S. stands at 56,037 and rising, roughly one-quarter of all the COVID-19 deaths in the world.  Is the U.S. lacking in the knowledge and technical capability to fight this pandemic or do we have incompetent national leadership?

Now states are starting to loosen social distancing requirements and opening businesses, even as we still have a long, long way to go to attain testing levels that can sustain a prolonged effort to protect everyone.  In Georgia today one can get a massage but that same person cannot get a coronavirus test.  The masseuse cannot get one either.  What could go wrong?

Here is my question of the day.  Why did we essentially shut down the country in the middle of March when there were roughly 20,000 coronavirus cases in the entire country if we are going to reopen it when many of those states have over 20,000 cases just in their state alone?  How does this make sense  when experts — not Pollyanna politicians or wannabe “patriots” — say that we will certainly have a second wave of infections and having lifted our basic precautions, it will certainly be worse than what we have experienced.

Don’t believe it?  Look at what happened in the U.S. in 1918-1920 with the Spanish flu.  There was no vaccine then.  They practiced wearing masks and social distancing.  The parallels are startling.  Cities that relaxed their precautions had a devastating second wave.  That pandemic lasted two years with ups and downs.  There were three outcomes:  you died, you survived and gained immunity, or you did not get it.  Pretty much where we are a hundred years later.

Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Task Force said that we will not rid ourselves of this curse until there is a significant “breakthrough” in medical technology in the form of a new type of testing.  Experts do not see a viable vaccine for the public for at least a year, a time frame most think is wildly optimistic.

Clearly, we can judiciously re-open some businesses as we learn what is doable and what is not.  Take small steps to see how things develop.  There is near unanimity that the only way out is a comprehensive, organized, coherent strategy to implement testing, contact tracing, and isolating those infected.  Period.  Wishing it away, willing it away, or pretending it’s no big deal does not solve the problem.  Pitting cities and states against each other does not solve the problem.  Mr. Trump complaining in his best Rodney Dangerfield impersonation that “I don’t get no respect” does not solve the problem.  It takes money, lots of people, patience, and a will to make it happen across the country.

We know what we have to do.  With no national leadership it is infinitely more difficult.


The Ugly Facts

In the course of this crisis created by the coronavirus I have been pulling for the federal government to step up and fulfill its duty under the solid direction and knowledgeable leadership of the president.  I have given up hope that it will happen.  This leads me to wonder whether Donald J. Trump is the worst president in our life time or the worst president ever?  In my opinion, he is the worst ever.

Many historians compare Mr. Trump to President Herbert Hoover who is universally considered one of the worst.  He took no action to avert or to mitigate the Great Depression putting all of his faith in the capitalist system and the ethos of the survival of the fittest.  Indeed, he vetoed a 2.1 billion dollar relief bill (about 38 billion in today’s dollars) because it was full of “pork” and what he considered to be unproductive jobs such as federal works projects.

But Mr. Hoover is not considered the absolute worst.  That honor generally goes to President James Buchanan who favored the expansion of slavery and did nothing to stop southern states from seceding from the Union, resulting in the Civil War.  Mr. Buchanan, rest easy.  You are no longer the worst.

Where to begin to count the ways that Mr. Trump has earned this accolade?  To me there is one over-riding fact that cannot be ignored.  The greatest country on earth with the best health system in the world has the largest number of identified COVID-19 cases and the largest number of deaths.  In. The. World.  People are dying.  Over 32,000 Americans have lost their lives as I write this.  It isn’t theoretical anymore.  How can this be?  It is the result of the president’s dithering, lies, inaction, and a congenital need to be the center of everything but the leader of nothing that got us to this place. Precious time was wasted as the president told us it would magically go away.  Over the weekend, two newspapers laid out time lines of what the government knew and when they knew it.  As Mr. Trump told us it was all under control, dire warnings were relayed to him. People tried to take action and he stopped them.  He wants credit for stopping travelers from China from entering the U.S., a necessary but not sufficient action.  He fails to mention that after he declared the border shut, roughly 40,000 people entered the U.S. from China.  He then wasted nearly two months during which serious action could have been taken.  Thank you Mr. Trump.

Beware.  It will get worse in so many ways.  Two important areas of concern are his attempts to do away with all of the safeguards of our democracy and the other is his foolhardy need to “open up for business” in two weeks or less.  He cannot be trusted.  As one pundit put it, to Mr. Trump, truth is an adversary.

Some examples of his intolerance for criticism or oversight include the fact that there are 14 Inspector General (IG) positions vacant in the U.S. government.  Infamously, Mr. Trump fired the IG for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) because he did his job and followed the law in forwarding a whistle blower complaint to Congress.  In the short term, Mr. Trump demoted the IG in the Department of Defense who had been chosen by his fellow IGs in the government to oversee the recently passed stimulus package. Now there is no one. There are no Senate confirmed officials in the entire ODNI.  All have been fired or pushed out.  Mr. Trump likes “actings” as he calls them, because they do not have to answer to the Senate and he can make them do his bidding.

Yesterday he threatened to adjourn Congress by presidential decree so that he can appoint more “actings” without Senate approval and thus do away with all oversight from Congress.  This on top of his claim during his live melt-down on camera Monday that “when somebody is president of the United States your authority is total.”  Clearly he thinks he can run the entire United States like he ran the Trump Organization by just sitting in his office, talking on the phone and telling people what to do with little to no input.  Only, as he says, based on his “gut.”  Speaking of guts, where are the elected Republican members of Congress?  Why is there no rebuke to a president that wants to be an autocrat and is actively working in that direction?

More importantly to many Americans, is the question of how do we address this dual nightmare of a staggered economy and a virulent pandemic?  I do not trust the president to do the right thing.  I never thought I would write that.  I have disagreed with many past presidential policies over the years, but I always at my core thought that while I disagreed with them, they were doing what they fundamentally thought was good for our country.  Not so with Mr. Trump.  He does only what he thinks is good for him.

He is desperate to take credit for anything positive that takes place — such as putting his signature on relief checks to appear as if he, the benevolent monarch, is personally giving away money and not that it is tax payer money — while contorting himself into grotesque statements attempting to blame anyone or everyone for his massive failings.

Here is the ugly truth.  Many people, including the president, do not understand what flattening the curve of this pandemic actually means.  He misleads us on what mitigation means.  The steps that we have all taken to wear masks, practice social distancing and to stay home only buy time.  The coronavirus does not magically go away on 1 May or any time until there is a cure or a vaccine.  This idea that everything will be normal and no one else will die is the biggest lie of all.

Study the curves for yourself.  Most models do not go beyond sometime early this summer.  What do you think happens when the restrictions are lifted?  The number of sick and dying sky rocket.  Study the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920.  Even a cursory review reveals that many of the same mitigation efforts that we are using today were used then.  Cities like St. Louis and San Francisco had very strict regimes in place.  Cities like Philadelphia did not.  The differences in death totals is staggering between the two extremes.

How did it end?  When people built up a natural immunity or died.  There was no vaccine.  Just as we have no vaccine now.

Our current measures are designed to buy time.  Time to get sufficient treatment spaces and medical equipment in place to treat those infected.  Time to figure out the best way to treat the virus.  Time to develop a vaccine.  Time to build up our ability to test vast numbers of people.  Time to put a system in place to identify hot spots, isolate those specific people impacted and stop the virus from spreading.

So far we have none of those things and we won’t have them on 1 May.

A very difficult decision lies ahead.  It could be a year or more before all of those necessary conditions are in place.  Our economy cannot continue as it is for a year.  How many lives should be lost in exchange for restarting the economy?  I don’t know. There are those that argue that we should just let the virus run its course.  If hundreds of thousands die, so be it.  It is the natural resolution to the crisis. Just as with the Spanish flu pandemic, one builds up an immunity or you die.  Then it’s over.  Somehow I cannot bring myself to believe that we as a country want or accept that.

So what to do?  In the short term, the emphasis should be on saving lives.  As we try to restart the economy it should be in very small steps in a localized way.  As the saying goes, “build a little, test a little.”  Be prepared to try new ways of doing business.  In every step it will be necessary to be ready to acknowledge that it didn’t work, or that it was too much too soon, and adjust.  When it does work, build on those lessons learned.

I do not think that Mr. Trump is capable of that kind of leadership.  He has already earned his place in history as the worst president ever.  I fear that he will work hard in the coming weeks and months to cement his standing as the worst leader our country ever experienced.


The Road Ahead

It is obvious that we are not yet through the terrible ramifications of our pandemic and resulting economic crisis.  Public health concerns need to be balanced with economic concerns in order to reach some kind of “new normal.”  I am sure that none of us know what our country will look like in the next six to twelve months but what is clear is the need for some kind of road map for our national recovery that is consistent with the necessary steps to keep all of us safe and to prevent a second major wave of disease that could result from lifting current restrictions too soon.

The president is, according to his remarks on his daily Trump Show, looking forward to reopening the country to business as usual with a “big bang.”  Aides suggest that the date will be roughly 1 May or perhaps earlier in parts of the country.  This makes it sound like some kind of ribbon cutting at the grand opening of a new mall rather than a sober analysis of the pros and cons of particular actions.

As the death toll passes 16,000 Americans, we are still deep into this crisis.  The good news, if it can be called anything like that, is that models seem to indicate that the total death toll by August will “only” be about 60,000.  Imagine.  Only 60,000 Americans dead. That is down from 100,000 to 240,000 but nothing to rejoice about or to suggest that we have this crisis under control.  We are not even a third of the way towards that horrible number and the president seems to want to do away with the measures that have helped to get a small grip on the horrors of this pandemic.

Americans of all political stripes, age groups, ethnic groups and socioeconomic means seem to have come together to embrace, for the most part, social distancing and accepting that things will be tough economically for awhile but that the only way to get this outbreak under control is by working together.  Patience is a virtue.  The results of what we do today will not be seen for two or three weeks down the line.

I have no trouble with the president and his administration looking ahead to what we should be doing in the next month, six months or a year.  I hope that someone or some group of professionals is in fact doing that.  But I see no evidence of a coherent, realistic plan.

During his daily reality show, the president seems intent on focusing only on the next 15 minutes rather than the next 15 months.  He continues to spread lies and misinformation.  For example, health care professionals uniformly declare that the only way to get the country back on its feet is to have a robust testing regime in place to determine who is sick, who is not sick and who may have already recovered from coronavirus without ever going to a doctor or indeed, without ever knowing they had it.

The Trump Administration has made continual promises on testing that have come nowhere near being factual.  As just a few examples, remember that on 10 March Vice President Mike Pence said that over a million tests had been distributed and that by 14 March four million more would be available.  A few days later the president said that 5 million tests were available.  And of course a week before that on 6 March the president said that, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.  That’s the bottom line.”

A month later roughly two million tests have been administered so far in the entire country.

The president continually points out that the United States has tested more people than any other country in the world, and he is correct.  But he misses several key contextual aspects to that. The state of New York has more confirmed cases than any country on earth.  All by itself.  Obviously the United States as a whole is the sickest on earth so far.  This includes China (which nearly certainly under reported the number of cases), India, Indonesia and several others with much greater populations.

Most importantly, per capita we are failing badly.  Well less than one percent of our country has been tested.  In my state only medical personnel on the front lines and those with a referral from their doctor based on symptoms can get tested.

Just by the force of numbers alone, it is clear that the United States, the greatest country on earth, badly bungled this crisis.  Dithering and wishful thinking frittered away a chance to get ahead of the pandemic and here we are.

So, my question.  What is the long-term strategy?  I have heard nothing from this administration that looks ahead to how we know we are “winning.”  What are the measures of effectiveness (MOEs) that will determine how we are doing and whether it is safe to open up parts of the economy?  So far we only hear about flattening the curve — an indicator that social distancing is working — but not what “safe” numbers of infected may be.  If the curve flattens out at 1500 dead a day is that a good thing?  I think not.  The numbers are not dropping everywhere and across the country the totals continue to increase.

Numbers are great.  To say we have tested more people than any other country is nice, but meaningless. Since this all began, we have tested roughly 2 million people.  Total.  If we test one million Americans a day — a day mind you — it will still take roughly nine months to test everyone.  And a test only shows whether you have the illness at the time of testing.

Am I advocating for every American to be tested and until then we keep our daily lives on hold?  No.  Not realistic.  But what is realistic?  What are the MOEs?  When is the risk/reward equation in our favor?  How do we know when it is safe to eat in a crowded restaurant or go to a sold out college football game? What percentage of testing is adequate to give a good sense of the pervasiveness of the disease in a particular area?  What number of sick people in an area is an indicator that it is safe to go out in a crowd? Are certain precautions sufficient to reopen a particular business that may not work in another?  Until we have some measurable indicators beyond the number of people currently in the hospital we don’t really know where we stand.  This is especially true as we know that some people are asymptomatic carriers that unknowingly pass the virus to others who then become very sick.

Psychologically I think it will take a long time for many of us to feel totally safe in a crowd.  Having actual data from the experts rather than “cheerleading” “aspirational” statements that turn out to be false from the president would go a long way in helping each of us to understand where we stand.

Life has risks in everyday endeavors.  Nothing is perfect.  However it is possible to understand our world around us when presented with facts, not lies, or wishes or wannabe situations.

Many pundits in the right wing media are starting to attack the medical professionals claiming that they are part of the Deep State or to opine that some kind of Social Darwinism is at work with COVID-19 and it should be allowed to run its course. Weed out the weaklings. The president has at times opined that it is not as bad as the media says it is and that they are only trying to hurt his re-election.  Might I suggest that those people go to work in a hospital or a grocery store or a pharmacy without proper protection?  Or perhaps the president could visit a COVID-19 ward without PPE?  Cheer up the troops.  Oh right.  No one can now come into contact with the president and vice president without being tested for COVID-19.  Yesterday they even required testing of the White House press pool before they could attend his daily reality show.

Nothing is impossible for the people that don’t have to do it.

It is time to listen to the experts.  Health care professionals should take the lead and economic professionals base their analysis on what is healthy — literally impacting one’s health — for the country as a whole.  Perhaps a regionally focused approach would work, although I would be concerned that folks with “cabin fever” in stay-at-home states would gravitate to those open for business.

A national approach, based on facts and realistic MOEs is the only way we will find our way out of this crisis.  The worst thing that could happen is to prematurely lift the measures we know are working only because the president is impatient and has a gut feeling that everything is good to go.  A second wave of pandemic would do even greater damage to our country.  If there is a time for a very conservative approach, this is it.

Patience coupled with verifiable facts is the only way to go.

 

 


The Price of Imperfection

The numbers are difficult to comprehend.  100,000 to 240,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 if, as Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House Coronavirus Task Force said, “we do things perfectly.”

There is ample evidence that as a country we have most definitely not done things perfectly, and sadly I see little evidence that we will do it perfectly as we move forward.  As I write, the U.S. passed the 5,000 mark in deaths from the virus.  Most experts do not expect the pandemic to peak until late April or early May.  Recall that the day after the peak likely will be the second most cases, the third day the third most, and so on.  The peak is only a measure of how far along we are in trying to mitigate the impact of the disease, not an indicator that the crisis is over.

In difficult times is it hard to know what to criticize and what to praise.  How to stay positive when things look so bleak.  Does one leave criticism of our leaders out of the conversation because we need to focus on the future and not the past?  Do we dissect what could have been done so much sooner to lessen the impact on our fellow Americans or just deal with the present and see what the future brings?  There is so much that could be said but does it help?  I think so.  If we are to deal with the crisis as it unfolds then we need to learn the lessons it is teaching us in order to deal with what comes along in the course of events.

Good leaders enter the fray with a plan.  As I have written in this space before, no plan survives contact with the enemy.  One must be able to adapt and alter the plan as events unfold, which is easier to do if beforehand the leader has thought through possible outcomes, surprises, and has the resiliency to adjust to circumstances as they unfold in order to bring the right resources to bear at the right time.

As resources start to deplete, it is necessary to assess the gravity of the situation in each sector of the battle.  Some places may need more of one thing rather than another.  Some forces are not currently engaged so extra attention is given to the places that are actively engaged while keeping some things in reserve for when the battle moves to a new front.  Forethought, tenacity and resilience are called for in order to vanquish the foe.

I see that leadership ability with governors in New York, Maryland, Ohio and elsewhere. Mayors and other local leaders are showing themselves to be able to cope with the situation by thinking imaginatively and using ingenuity to face the overwhelming impact of this virus.  Unfortunately, it is not evident throughout the country.  Even as we see the horrible impact of the virus in New York, Louisiana and elsewhere, some governors refuse to tackle the issue head on.  Some put in half measures while across the river in another state very stringent requirements are in place.  Both lose out as people are free to cross state lines and they will seek out what they want where they find it.  Consequently, both states will suffer as the virus spreads when people from different areas intermingle and interact.

Likewise, as the White House Coronavirus Task Force claims that states and cities are getting the supplies they need, we see countless reports, most from front line health care providers, begging for more help in acquiring supplies to keep them safe and healthy so that they can take care of their patients.

All of us have learned a new language and new words that we freely throw around when just a few weeks ago we had no clue about such things.  PPE.  COVID-19.  Social distancing.  Ventilators.  Pandemic.  And on and on.  We have learned a lot but we have more to learn.  So who to trust?

Sometimes two things can be true at the same time.  For example, if the White House claims that they shipped 500,000 masks to New Jersey, it seems like a big number.  It is a big number.  But if hospitals in the state are going through 750,000 masks in a few days then it is not enough.  In addition, many hospitals in hard hit areas have already thrown out best practices in order to save PPE.  Gowns, gloves, and masks should be changed for each patient in order to protect the sick as well as the providers.  Most places now issue one set for a shift.  Some now issue one set for a week.  Regardless of the numbers the White House claims to have provided, it is clearly not enough when it comes to the front lines.  If our first responders and health care workers go down, the entire house of cards will collapse.  Unfortunately, PPE do not help them with the emotional and physical toll this crisis is exacting.  What are the plans to relieve those who have been on the front lines for weeks on end?  Where are the psychiatrists and psychologists to help them deal with the stress and pain of losing so many people they pledged to help?  These issues should also be addressed on a large scale.

It does not help when the president gets up before the cameras in his daily reality show and hints that doctors and nurses are selling the masks on the black market and that is why there is not enough to go around as he did on Monday.  “Are they going out the back door?”  “I don’t think it’s hoarding.  I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.”

It does not help when the president gets up before the cameras in his daily reality show and says “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators” as he did last week.

It does not help when the president gets up before the cameras in his daily reality show and says that the governor of New York should be “grateful” to him for supplying ventilators and that he hit “paydirt.”

It does not help that president gets up before the cameras in his daily reality show as he did a few days ago and brags about his “ratings” being better than “The Bachelor” while saying that some projections are for 2.2 million dead in the U.S. and “so if we have between 100,000 and 200,000 we all have done a very good job.”

It does not help when the president tweets as he did just hours ago that “Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being directly delivered to states, to hospitals by the Federal Government.  Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?).  Remember we are a back up to them.”

Funny thing.  When your citizens are dying one expects leaders to pull out all the stops to save them.

Maybe if you give everyone a ventilator that wants one pretty soon nobody will breathe on their own?

Again, two things can be true at the same time.  But here’s the rub.  The hospitals, mayors, governors are on the ground and know how much they need.  More importantly, we are dealing with a situation that projects that upwards of 240,000 citizens will die if we do everything perfectly.  That same projection from the president’s Task Force indicates that it could be between 1.2 million and 2.2 million if the right steps are not taken.  The key fact is that the worst is yet to come.  It does not matter whether current needs are being met if there is nothing left for the future.  Governors and mayors realize that if they are barely meeting demand now, there is no way they can meet it when things get really bad.  On top of that, multiple reports indicate that officials at the Department of Homeland Security report that the national reserves are nearly depleted.

Why is the federal government “a back up”?  This is a national crisis.  Why are states, cities, and even individual hospitals all competing against each other to get what they need?  Profiteering is certainly taking place.  Governors report that orders they expect to have delivered get cancelled because another client offered more money to the manufacturer for the same shipment.

The primary function of the federal government is to provide for the safety and security of its citizens.  All else is meaningless if people are not safe or secure.

It is beyond appalling that the president continues to refuse to step up and organize our response on a national scale.  There should be a centralized procurement and distribution system.  There is an old saying, “lead or get out of the way.”  I think it time for the president to get out of the way.  He has a Task Force formulating the medical response to the crisis.  Daily he puts out misinformation, lies or revisionist history and uses the briefing as a substitute for his rallies.  Just stop it.  Let the scientists and professionals give us the straight information.  What they know — good or bad, what they don’t know, and what are facts versus opinions.

Set up a similar Task Force for procuring and disbursing the needed supplies.  Then get out of the way.  The military is skilled at logistics, let them handle it if no one else in the administration knows what to do.

This is a national problem.  While the media’s and president’s focus seems to be on the New York region, the fact is currently Louisiana has the highest per capita hospitalization rate.  The highest per capita infection rate is in Idaho.  A national problem needs a national, coordinated response.

On a personal note, please keep those suffering on your minds and in your hearts.  This is going to be a long haul.  Remember the first responders and health care professionals that so far have been able to keep this pandemic at a crisis level rather than a national collapse.  Finally, keep yourself safe.

Stay calm and wash your hands.