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From Trump to Biden: The Covid Response – A Catastrophic Geopolitical and Societal Failure

Mario Cavolo

Regarding my recent inquiries into the Covid Response which occurred in the United States, I couldn’t decide whether the worst part of the United States’ failure was the geopolitical failure or the public health failure. I had not given this particular topic much thought during the past year, especially as it stands in stark contrast to China’s ZeroCovid policy which remains the premier response model that has saved millions of lives with the cooperation of citizens embracing their civic duty, while understandably raising concerns about its economic impact. And so, I decided as we move through the third year of the pandemic to identify the most significant aspects of the U.S. response. Here is what I found and I am sorry to say, it is difficult to find any positive light to shine in this direction.

I am one of many voices regularly criticizing the US government in its failures to even fulfill its most basic responsibilities to its society and citizens, favoring to a far greater degree the concerns of the plutocrats. The pandemic response under such circumstances would and did naturally become an integral part of that societal decline and government failure. I read through reports and articles from some of the best names in respected media and institutions including Scientific American, Cornell University’s school of public policy, the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, Europe’s Center for Economic Policy Research, as well as pieces found in The New Yorker, Time magazine, The Atlantic, New York Times, Washington Post & Bloomberg. I could have spent countless additional hours only to find the same narrative over and over again. Shocking failure, disappointment and death due primarily to incompetent, ugly geopolitical agendas and a scattered public health policy response that continue to place the needs of American society and its people at the bottom of their list of priorities. It is regarded by many as a travesty of governance and democratic principles.

Before we had even arrived at the moment of the pivotal Wuhan outbreak starting in December 2019, three years earlier in 2016, we already had a populist Donald Trump stirring up hate & division by following the Republican Election Committee’s advice to win the presidential election, believe it or not, by blaming China for pretty much everything. Three years later, to imagine the president of the most powerful country in the world this century openly inciting hate against China, himself calling it the “China virus” could only presage how poor the US response to the pandemic might be in the coming weeks and indeed, that is exactly what happened. As Tanya Lewis, a senior editor at Scientific American explained, “COVID—though mild for many people—struck down elderly and more vulnerable individuals with a vengeance, launching a wave of fear, suffering and death unlike any in recent memory.”

There is no joy or gloating in realizing no country worldwide has fared worse than the United States with a record of death and misery defying belief leading me to note the primary causes in my view; incompetent, divisive governance intertwined with the rising tide of selfish neoliberal individualism found across the population of American citizens rather than a good old fashioned, admirable sense of civic duty. Combine those two primary causes with a healthcare system built for the wealthy, a CDC team that couldn’t even clearly advise all of its citizens to wear masks without politicizing the issues and a recipe for disaster is complete. The mess that began with the Trump Administration has continued under the Biden Administration despite being a Democrat rather than Republican Presidency. Taking a closer look reveals important details along the timeline from 2020 as we now approach the end of 2022.

When a CDC spokesperson acknowledged in late February 2020, that disruptions to daily life could be “severe,” the agency was quickly sidelined by none other than President Trump himself. According to an August 2022 Bloomberg article, “It looks like a no-win situation for the organization (CDC)” with persistently high dissatisfaction with the organization’s transparency to Americans about the level of uncertainty being faced due to the pandemic and subsequent recommendations such as its flip-flopping recommendations on mask mandates. Baruch Fischhoff, an engineering and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon emphasized that the CDC didn’t do enough to give people detailed information about Covid risks and recommendations.

In one of the earlier reports from Europe’s Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) we already found, “The US has 4% of the world’s population but 21% of the global COVID-19-attributed infections and deaths.” We learned that excess mortality is the most accurate way of analyzing such data and Europe’s cumulative excess mortality rate was 28% lower from March to July during the first year of the pandemic. As the pandemic continued, and no matter which approach was taken to analyze and compare the figures, this persisted.

The US government under President Trump squandered the first several weeks it had to prepare, having been well and quickly informed by China’s CDC every step of the way through December and into early January. When WHO team leader Bruce Aylward praised China’s remarkable response in Wuhan, the United States began another piece of its vicious geopolitical gamesmanship, immediately attacking and demonizing WHO instead of focusing on mutual cooperation to save lives at home and across the globe.

“Life expectancy in the United States, which declined dramatically in 2020 as the coronavirus slammed into the country, continued to go down in 2021, according to a new analysis that shows the United States faring worse during the pandemic than 19 other wealthy countries — and failing to see a life expectancy rebound despite the arrival of effective vaccines.” Washington Post, April 7, 2022

Under the Biden Administration into 2022, we find The Commonwealth Fund’s Annual 2022 Scorecard on State Health System Performance which reveals continued lackluster response and concern about vaccines with less than 40 percent of adults yet to receive a single booster dose by the end of March 2022. Fears of serious side effects related to the use of mRNA vaccines including recent EU parliament hearings revealing an alarming lack of cooperation and transparency by both Pfizer and Moderna in disclosing the true test data are not helping the issues at hand. As of October 2022, William Hanage, Harvard associate professor of epidemiology, noted that “Nearly 50% of people who are eligible for a booster have not gotten one.”

One of the major contributors to this public health disaster has been the malign politicization of most Covid pandemic related issues which have clearly continued into the Biden Administration. While Donald Trump famously lead the distorted pandemic and anti China rhetoric as the U.S. president, with the upcoming 2022 U.S. midterm elections, anti-science rhetoric sowing distrust and hate is common among Republican candidates, according to the Covid response updates page at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s whether or not the federal government can ever close your child’s school down again…” said Robert Blendon, professor emeritus at the school. “Calls to investigate and even jail Dr. Anthony Fauci have become regular campaign rallying cries.”, according to Boston Globe Media’s STAT.

In the state of Minnesota, Republican nominee Scott Jensen remains unvaccinated and said “the federal government has taken a Hitler-like approach to containing the virus.”

In all of this, we find the least possible concern for and accountability to public health and citizens. The examples of malign policy and attitudes are endless, revealing a societal environment across the country where it is virtually impossible for the government to fulfill its responsibilities to form and implement effective public health policy for each and every American citizen. In addition, such an environment thwarts the core efforts of the country’s dedicated, tireless healthcare professionals.

The hard to believe core issues outlined in the Scientific American report I reviewed include President Trump and his allies downplaying the dangers, actively undermining and sidelining experts, a slow, delayed, flawed testing approach, poor commitment to adequate tracing & isolating, even racial inequity reducing access to care. Their experts couldn’t even get it right on the messaging that the virus spread through the air such as from coughing.

Yet just a few weeks earlier in mid September, President Biden recently declared “The pandemic is over” and even less Americans are protecting themselves, anchored to the false beliefs that variants “aren’t so bad anymore.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor immediately pointed out this problem, that every day citizens would very much let their guard down. His own senior health officials immediately began to walk back Biden’s comment made during his recent 60 Minutes interview.

Indeed, on October 13, 2022, the Biden Administration renewed the longstanding Covid public health emergency declaration which has existed since January 2020. So what are they doing exactly? The emergency declaration allows the expansion of certain programs such as Medicare and Medicaid without congressional approval, provisions for low-income people, telehealth services and hospital flexibility to deploy staff and beds when a surge of patients stresses capacity.

It seems clear these measures are focused on response rather than prevention, such as found in China’s approach preventing millions of deaths & hospitalizations; this only serve to confirm continuation of the underlying failures. As of October 2022, the number of new daily deaths and hospitalizations remains far higher than annual influenza indicating the Biden Administration with an extra measure of cheering from the uncooperative Republican Party simply wants to “let it rip”.

These overarching Covid pandemic policies reflect the underlying core values of a society which in the case of the United States are high on freedom, individualism & economics rather than China’s high core values on marriage, family & filial piety reflecting its ZeroCovid policy approach to first protect everyone’s health with a far more willing citizenry doing its civic duty for one another.

According to a Time magazine update five months earlier in May, 2022, neighboring Canada’s death rate was just 40% of the death rate in the United States. To take in but one more example from early this year, we have this, “The percent of Canadians wearing masks in January 2022 when the Omicron variant was at its height was 80 percent compared to just 50 percent in the U.S.”

A word must be given to honor the heroic sacrifices made by dedicated healthcare workers across the globe including the United States, with paramedics responding to calls at all hours of the night, doctors & nurses comforting dying patients as they struggled to breath, saying goodbye over video calls to family members who were not allowed in the room with them. These heroes faced and continue to face down exhaustion and despair on a daily basis.

Mario Cavolo, Senior Fellow, CCG

This post first appeared on Timesnewswire, please read the originial post: here

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From Trump to Biden: The Covid Response – A Catastrophic Geopolitical and Societal Failure


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