Trump unfit to lead in a pandemic -the consensus among Epidemiologists
Accredited and recognized experts in epidemiology and public health issues are unified in their rejection of Donald Trump’s messaging, denial of scientific realities and negligence during the outbreak of the coronavirus in America.
With some, it has been by implication. They have contradicted his irresponsible statements, without referring to him by name. The scientific community is broadly reticent to wade into political controversies.
The scientists in Trump’s own administration, have disclaimed his advocacy of junk science, while taking caution not to step directly on his toes. Specialists in the field of infectious disease are appalled that Trump signals to his voting base that wearing protective face covering in public is nonsensical.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has arguably walked an unsteady tightrope, but even that skillful high wire act seems likely to result in a cancellation from Trump.
As you will recall, Fauci told the unvarnished truth about the risk involved in putting children back into classrooms in the Fall, before the conditions involved are uniformly judged to be stable and of “opening the country back up”, ahead of much more robust testing and community tracing, among other factors. Fauci described the approach Trump is advocating as a “bridge too far”.
Trump deemed Fauci’s remarks to be “unacceptable”. “I was surprised by his answer. To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
The manner in which they were not acceptable, was that they did not conform to his political agenda – not that they weren’t grounded in data and objective evidence. Trump is very insistent on an arbitrary timetable.
“I think you should absolutely open the schools. Our country has got to get back and it’s got to get back as soon as possible, and I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”
As to the matter of whether it is prudent to push kids back into classrooms before the proper prerequisites are adequately in place, Dr. Fauci is on solid ground in terms of the findings of his colleagues in the field and the strong reservations they have against it.
German virologist and coronavirus expert, Christian Drosten and a team of fellow researchers tested 47 infected children between the ages of 1 and 11 — 15, that had an underlying condition or were hospitalized; the rest were mostly free of symptoms — and found that the asymptomatic children were infected with as much virus as their peers who were symptomatic. Their degree of infection was, on average, even as high as adults and in some instances their viral loads were higher.
Of his findings, Drosten observed:
“In this cloud of children, there are these few children that have a virus concentration that is sky-high. So I’m a bit reluctant to happily recommend to politicians that we can now reopen day cares and schools.”
And on Thursday, we heard testimony before a House committee from Dr. Rick Bright, who until April 21st of this year, was the director of BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority), but was removed by Donald Trump because Bright would not acquiesce to Trump’s intention to order massive quantities of a pharmaceutical, Hydroxy-chloroquine to administer to hospitalized COVID-19 victims.
The drug has been panned by multiple research studies as being, at the minimum, of no therapeutic value and at worst, the cause of severe effects up to and including, death. Bright’s testimony highlighted the failure of a timely marshalling of resources, such as critically important PPE supplies, telling House members that:
“We’ve known for quite some time that our stockpile was insufficient in having those critical personal protective equipment. So once this virus began spreading and became known to be a threat, I did feel quite concerned that we didn’t have those supplies. And I began pushing urgently in January, along with some industry colleagues, as well. And those urges, those alarms, were not responded to with action.”
House member, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA -18 CD), chairing the session, asked Dr. Bright, “Was there a failure to take immediate action when you correctly push to acquire additional doses of the drug Remdesivir, which is the only drug so far that appears to be at least mildly effective, thank God, for treating people with COVID-19?”
Bright, replied, “There was no action taken on the urgency to come up with a plan for acquisition of limited doses that remdesivir nor to distribute those limited doses of Remdesivir once we had the scientific data to support their use for people infected with this virus.”
Dr. Bright was also asked by Representative Eshoo, if “instead of acting on your recommendations, was the response of others to try and cut you out of key meetings, marginalize your participation?”
Dr. Bright, who has submitted to Congress, a formal whistleblower complaint, now in review, answered Rep. Eshoo that, “I was told that my urgings were causing a commotion and I was removed from those meetings.”
There is considerably more in Bright’s testimony, which you can read for yourself, here, that is a damning indictment of both Trump as president and his administration. This is the videotaped session of the hearing:
It establishes with detail, how disastrously the viral outbreak was handled, fumbled actually, from the earliest moment when a response was critical, to the present moment, as Trump continues to manage it, not from a public health imperative, but as an exclusive political matter.
But we’ll let Dr. Bright summarize it himself, with a warning of the consequences that will result:
“There will be likely a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall. It will be greatly compounded by the challenges of seasonal influenza. Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”
However, it was not just Dr. Fauci and Dr. Bright we heard from, whose assessments demonstrate Trump’s status as unfit to lead. There was also a commentary, published this week, which was almost unprecedented, from an internationally respected medical research organization, The Lancet medical journal.
As previously mentioned, research scientists customarily put considerable social distance between themselves and political controversies.
There are many reasons for this, but under ordinary circumstances, it is considered by them, to be outside of their societal function – a sort of a third rail to steer clear of. Secondary considerations involve their preferred role of being seen as neutral parties in partisan conflicts and that they rely in large measure, on politicians for funding.
In this situation, however, there was a sense on the part of the editorial board, that they must speak forcefully on behalf of their American counterparts, in the agencies where Trump has imposed his will upon their colleagues.
In this, it could not have escaped their attention the dismissal of Dr. Bright, or another firing, that of Christi Grimm, who became Inspector General of Health and Human Services in January. Grimm had worked in Office of the Inspector General (OIG) since 1999 and served the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Trump, by various accounts, was enraged when he learned of the conclusions of Ms. Grimm’s report, issued on April 6, which MedPageToday reports, outlined a series of deficits in the administration’s handling of the pandemic, including among them, interviews with 323 hospital administrators, finding that hospitals continued to wrestle with shortages of supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE), and that some of the supplies hospitals received from state and federal stockpiles were of insufficient quantity and quality.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), in response to Ms. Grimm’s firing, stated:
“After attacking her on Twitter, the President is now moving to replace the respected independent government watchdog leading investigations into why we were so unprepared and slow to respond to this virus, which has left families nationwide mourning tens of thousands of lives and struggling to make rent or put food on the table.”
The Lancet, in its editorial, recites a series of specific events that illustrate how Trump has waged war on the very agencies and human resources that are critical in defending the health of Americans.
The Trump administration further chipped away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases. CDC staff in China were cut back with the last remaining CDC officer recalled home from the China CDC in July, 2019, leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID-19 began to emerge.
In a press conference on Feb 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned US citizens to prepare for major disruptions to movement and everyday life. Messonnier subsequently no longer appeared at White House briefings on COVID-19.
More recently, the Trump administration has questioned guidelines that the CDC has provided. These actions have undermined the CDC’s leadership and its work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The editors at Lancet, specify the manner in which Trump and top officials at his direction, have steered the national response in the wrong direction, while neglecting essentials that conform to the consensus view of the scientific community of epidemiologists and healthcare professionals:
The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency. The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today’s complicated effort.
Their conclusion, is a searing censure and denunciation of Trump:
The Trump administration’s further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic.
But their prescription, if you will, suggests an unmistakable course of treatment:
“Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”