And he is, who he is.
And because he is who he is, “it” is so much worse than “it” had to be. And to be clear the “it” to which I refer are the 165,000 dead Americans, or, to be more specific, the tens of thousands of Americans who were claimed by Coronavirus because the Trump Administration bungled essential early testing, and because the President denigrated the need to wear masks, and because the President has denigrated, and still denigrates the importance of testing, and because the President assured the country at the very moment the virus was about to catastrophically accelerate that it would soon be at zero new cases, and because the President huckstered medicines and treatments not approved for treating COVID-19, and because the President still insists that we’ve done “wonderfully” and because every utterance concerning this deadly contagion has been predicated on a self-serving political calculation rather than an urgent public health imperative. He has even consistently highjacked the White House coronavirus briefings and transformed the briefings into crude self-serving rambling, disjointed, often off-the-cuff, political stump speech harangues.
He has the temerity to grade his effectiveness in dealing with the pandemic as “spectacular.” Well, in a sense, it certainly has been spectacular.
He often refers to his decision to cut off flights to and from China as spectacular and bold, and a decision no one else was willing to make. Well, not quite. American Airlines canceled China flights on January 31st, Delta Airlines, on February 2nd and United Airlines, on February 5th. Spectacular? Hardly. Here are the dates other national airlines began canceling flights to and from Chinese cities.
January 23rd – Japan’s All Nippon Airways and Taiwan’s Cebu Pacific and China Airlines.
January 24th – Thailand’s Thai Airways, Hong Kong’s Cathay Dragon Airlines, Malaysia’s Air Asia, Korea’s Korean Air.
January 29th – United Kingdom’s British Airways, Germany’s Lufthansa Airlines, Switzerland’s Swiss International Airlines.
January 30th – Canada’s Air Canada, South Korea’s Eastar Jet, France’s Air France, Italy’s Neos Airlines, Israel’s El Al Airlines, Netherland’s KLM Airlines.
But the sad, heartbreaking and inescapable conclusion that will eventually punctuate all serious future discussion of this public-health disaster will be that it didn’t have to happen this way, that far too many of these deaths—these lost American souls, were lost to a combination of failed national direction and inconsistent, ad hoc, every-state-on-its-own leadership.
As of this morning, Coronavirus deaths in the United States (165,000+), all since February 6th, are equivalent to twenty-five percent of all recorded combat deaths (666,441), excluding military deaths from non-combat causes, in all of the wars the United States has fought since the outbreak of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775. Let that sink in.
Recent studies published in NATURE confirm the astonishing effectiveness of early aggressive government interventions in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. Elsewhere, Isaac Sebenius, a molecular and cellular scientist, and James K. Sebenius, a professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, write in STAT, an open-access journal of the International Statistical Institute, that had the United States implemented the same decisive early measures as had South Korea, Australia, Germany, and Singapore, all of which had the same information the U.S. had, at least 70% of the American deaths from Coronavirus might have been avoided.
To compare each country’s responses to the pandemic on a consistent basis, they turned to the work of the Oxford University team that constructed a stringency index based on policy responses (lockdowns, testing, etc.) to measure how strongly each country responded over time. The Oxford index shows that 14 days from the date of the 15th confirmed case in each country — a vital early window for action — the U.S. response to the outbreak lagged behind the others by miles.
According to the authors, given the exponential viral spread of Coronavirus, the delay in action by the United States has been devastating (and certainly not “spectacular” as President Trump assures us). During the first four months following the first fifteen confirmed cases in the United States, 117,858 Americans died. During the equivalent period of time when the four countries referenced above took aggressive action and the United States dawdled, those countries experienced only a fraction of the deaths in relative terms to that experienced by the United States. Had the United States taken the same aggressive action like that taken by Germany, for example, the data suggests that 70% of U.S. coronavirus deaths might have been prevented. In fact, the collective data from all four of the countries that took effective immediate action indicate that 70% could have been the minimum reduction in American deaths.
Certainly, the potential 70% or greater reduction in American deaths from Coronavirus is not a precise statistic. It may have been somewhat greater and it may have been somewhat less. But what is a very reasonable conclusion is that we have lost tens of thousands of American lives that didn’t have to be lost.
President Trump is a veritable fountain of misinformation. It is questionable whether he conscientiously lies or simply internalizes and believes much of the nonsense he speaks. He insisted to Chris Wallace in a recent FOX interview that the United States had the lowest mortality rate of deaths from Coronavirus in the world. That, of course, is not even remotely correct, although we may have the lowest rate among the selected nations on the list Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany handed him.
To be clear, Scientists define “mortality rate” as a measure of how frequently death occurs within a defined population. So, let’s consider John Hopkins University’s calculations of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population, a pretty standard measurement of mortality rate. The United States has the sixth highest mortality rate using this metric, behind the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Chile, and France. Sixteen other hard-hit nations had a lower mortality rate: Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Iran, Colombia, Germany, South Africa, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Argentina, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
Among advanced industrialized nations, six countries had higher mortality rates than the United States: Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and France. But 15 countries had lower mortality rates than the United States: Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
Many Trump sycophants seem assuaged that most of the deaths have been among older Americans and that younger Americans have a much higher survival rate. That Coronavirus is deadlier for older patients is, of course, true throughout the world. That’s why Uganda with a median age of 15.9 years has the lowest Coronavirus mortality rate in the world. That’s statistically interesting, but as a measure of our effectiveness in dealing with the Coronavirus epidemic in the United States, quite irrelevant.
Estimates now hover around 250,000 to 300,000 American deaths by year’s end, and we’re certainly well on our way to meeting that awful projection. “It is what it is.” Spectacular indeed.