EDITORIAL: Unprecedented, trying times


Associated Press

President Trump speaks to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020.

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes its presence known around the world, effective and responsible leadership in government is more necessary now than ever.

Unfortunately, such leadership in governing is proving to be a rarity in the United States and in West Virginia alike.

Per ABC News, “… unfortunately, (the Trump administration’s) misleading and false statements are spreading this week apace with the virus itself.”

President Trump this week attempted to update Americans on actions regarding the coronavirus, but during his speech, he made several false claims, including that health insurers had agreed to waive co-payments for treatments (they have not) and details about the European travel ban.

And the president’s errors are not inconsequential. The potential consequences of falsely telling all Americans to not worry about the cost of treatments are obvious. Additionally, Americans abroad believed they would be unable to return home after Trump’s travel ban announcement, causing many to rush into crowded airports during a time when the CDC says it is crucial to public health to practice social distancing.

More recent comments seem to indicate Trump will begin to defer to medical experts to make decisions regarding the coronavirus, but to many Americans, the president’s decision has come too late.

According to NPR, just 37% of Americans say they have a “good amount or a great deal of trust” in information from the Trump administration regarding the pandemic. Furthermore, just 46% of Americans believe the government “is doing enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

When the country is experiencing extreme shortages in necessary medical equipment, tests and facilities, the White House is releasing contradictory information daily and no one is guaranteed access to potential treatments, perhaps such public distrust should not be surprising.

The U.S. government’s irresponsible and internationally-condemned response to the coronavirus outbreak has revealed damning indictments of the country’s health care system, disaster preparedness and overall power structures.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice recently told residents to: “Go to the grocery stores. For crying out loud, go to the grocery stores. If you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat.” The governor’s advice directly contradicts the recommendations of the CDC and medical professionals around the world.

As of Tuesday, according to the WVDHHR, less than 90 people have been tested for coronavirus in West Virginia, where a significant portion of the population is considered especially vulnerable to infection. Just one infection has so far been confirmed.

Per West Virginia Public Broadcasting: “West Virginians aren’t getting widely tested because there simply are not enough supplies to test people—even nationwide. The state has put in an order for more kits, but supplies are on backorder with no sense of when the order will be fulfilled.”

Without access to adequate medical equipment and testing, it is even more crucial that everyone follow the advice of public health experts to minimize danger.

We are living in unprecedented and trying times. Now is when unity, solidarity and cooperation matter most. Cities and countries around the world are ordering residents to isolate, quarantine and work from home if possible. Some governments have suspended rent and utilities payments and are considering supplying citizens with necessary incomes for the foreseeable future. Economies are experiencing historic crashes. Even the Trump administration recently called for limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Experts say and data show that in times of such serious and widespread danger to the public, being underprepared and failing to be proactive are far more dangerous than potentially being overly cautious. The best time to begin acting to prevent and to limit the disastrous impacts of this global pandemic is already well in the past.

But today, the reality is clear: the U.S. is late in responding to this pandemic that threatens millions of lives, and leaders in government must immediately begin to take corrective actions by following the lead of the world’s health experts, who recommend strict isolation and widely available testing and treatment. Anything else is deeply irresponsible and will result in the loss of countless lives.