In February and March of 2020, we had a chance to crush the novel coronavirus and prevent mass death and suffering from COVID-19. Donald Trump, then President of the United States, had been briefed on the horrific transmissibility and lethality of the virus. He told Bob Woodward weeks later he knew it could kill millions.
On February 5, 2020, Sen. Chris Murphy shared his grave concern that the White House was not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
Trump’s pathological obsession with denying the severity of the pandemic led millions to side with Trump against science. Even as tens of thousands lost their lives in the worst viral hotspots, politicians aligned with Trump fought against many or sometimes all public health protections.
In New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, and Japan, public health standards were clear and universal. Everyone needed to wear masks in public, respect social distancing guidelines, and avoid indoor gatherings, including restaurants and office spaces. A short but decisive nationally coordinated action, with people acting in solidarity, would crush the curve, stop the spread, contain the virus, and effectively end the outbreak.
In the US, Trump and his anti-science allies worked to confuse the public, conceal science-based public health guidance, and sabotage virus containment measures. Even as deaths skyrocketed, Trump and his allies lied about the data, lied about the known efficacy of containment measures, and “played down” the transmissibility and lethality of the virus.
One year after Sen. Murphy warned the Trumpadministration was not readying the nation to face the known threat, 459,361 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19. We have been losing more than 2,000 people per day for over two months—sometimes more than 4,000 per day. By contrast, the total deaths in four countries that quicklyacted to contain the virus, using masks, social distancing, and temporary shutdowns, are:
- Australia: 909 deaths.
- Japan: 6,372 deaths.
- New Zealand: 25 deaths.
- South Korea: 1,464 deaths.
The combined population of these four countries is 208 million people, just under 2/3 the population of the US. Combined, they have lost 8,770 lives to COVID-19. If the US response had been as effective, 13,914 would have died, not 459,361.