2020 US ELECTIONS

US elections: What's Trump's plan to deal with Coronavirus?

As a third wave of the coronavirus swells over the US, Donald Trump declares the virus is “ending” and gives little detail about how he will solve it.

US elections: What's Trump's plan to deal with Coronavirus?
Octavio Jones AFP

Although President Trump has tried to steer the conversation away from the covid-19 pandemic it has stayed square in the spotlight of the 2020 US election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump as new infection rates surge ever higher across the US. The President has yet to release a comprehensive plan for dealing with the crisis but he has openly said that it is not a problem.

The US is currently pushing toward 9 million cases of covid-19 with a death toll now over 228,000 and American’s disapproval rating of President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is 58%. President Trump however feels that his administration has done a “great job” claiming that it was better than the Obama administration’s handling of the H1N1 or swine flu outbreak in 2009. The White House’s science policy office even released a statement earlier in the week listing “ending the covid-19 pandemic” as one of the President’s top achievements in his first term, later saying that it was poorly worded.

President Trump on the campaign trail has been touting that the US is “turning the corner” and the virus is “ending” even as cases going into the fall have been hitting record levels from a starting point above the peak of the first wave.

The covid-19 infections in the spring hit primarily the northeast of the US and urban areas but the virus is now racing into the interior of the country attacking rural areas with a vengeance. Many hospitals across the country are seeing their ICUs filling to capacity.

The White House response to covid-19

Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of the White House taskforce to handle the response to the covid-19 pandemic in February and since then has touted the administration's handling of it with the testing program and protective equipment supplied to the states. However, there are complaints that the states were basically left to their own devices and ended up competing with one another to get tests and supplies. The administration has also been criticized for not using the not using the Defense Production Act more broadly.

Pence has said that the White House has been listening to the experts as they move forward and as part of his duties as head of the task force, he holds weekly meetings with scientists and doctors. But in the end, it is President Trump who is calling the shots and Pence is just a “yes-man.” Trump himself has not attended these meetings for months now and has even criticized the experts on the task force especially Dr. Anthony Fauci calling them “idiots.”

Super-spreaders

Holding campaign rallies and events that go against the White House’s own recommendations is a hallmark of President Trump. Before President Trump himself became infected with covid-19 a large ceremony was held at the Rose Garden with almost no social distancing or mask wearing to announced the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court which resulted in a large outbreak.

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President Trump introduces Amy Coney Barrett

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after being nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. October 22, 2020

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Soon after coming out of hospital Trump went back on the campaign trail to hold rallies in areas that were seeing dramatic increases in covid-19 infection rates with health officials pleading with the White House not to hold the events. Since then, there have been even higher infection rates than would have been expected.

Even now Pence is traveling around the country attending campaign rallies when he should be self-isolating. The White House has said that he is an “essential worker.”

Herd immunity

As President Trump has tuned out the experts, he has brought in people who think more like him, case in point Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist, not an infectious disease expert. Dr. Atlas has proposed slowing testing, something that Trump has spoken about at his rallies saying that “when you do more testing you find more cases.”

Dr. Atlas also has a theory of herd immunity whereby the virus spreads naturally through the population and if an infected person recovers, they will be immune to the virus. This idea has been rejected by the WHO and other health experts as it could result in millions of deaths and suffering. However, again, Trump has put forth the idea on several occasions with his chief of staff Mark Meadows recently saying “we aren’t going to control the virus.”

The Trump covid-19 plan

The one concrete part of the Trump administration’s plan is to get a vaccine out when it is available and using therapeutics to treat the disease.

Trump has been saying that there would be a vaccine before the elections but that deadline is about to pass. Trump has also pledged that his administration will deliver 300 million vaccine doses by January 2021 with the help of the US military. However, the timeline for a vaccine being ready before January and being able to be distributed to whole nation will most likely take well into 2021.

Trump has also hyped his own treatment, vowing to make it widely available and free. The possibility of this happening is not clear as the drugs are still experimental and their effectiveness on the wider population is unknown. The makers have applied for emergency authorization use from the FDA.