By JOHN LESLIE
Even as deaths were soaring in the United States, Trump declared that he wanted to lift restrictive public health measures as soon as possible, and would re-open the country for business in “weeks,” not months. During his March 23 press conference and on Twitter, Trump signaled his desire to cut short the protocols on physical distancing and to get the economy rolling again, saying, “… at the same time, at a certain point, we have to get open and we have to get moving. We don’t want to lose these companies. We don’t want to lose these workers.” Faced with a record-breaking number of unemployment claims, 3.2 million so far, Trump is clearly under pressure to keep the economy going despite the dangers such a course of action presents to the public.
He further stated that if “you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody no more driving of cars. So we have to do things to get our country open.” On Twitter, Trump added, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
Taking his cue from the White House, in an appearance on Fox News, the lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, stated that grandparents should be willing to risk death to save the capitalist system: “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren? … And if that is the exchange, I’m all in …”
FOX News commentator Britt Hume joined the chorus by defending Patrick on the “Tucker Carlson Show,” saying that it is “entirely reasonable” that seniors “take a risk of getting the disease, if that’s what it took to allow the economy to move forward.” Right-wing pundits and politicians have been pushing the idea that the interests of capital take precedence over the health of the most vulnerable.
This week, Trump expressed his desire to reopen the economy by Easter (April 12), saying, “So, I think Easter Sunday, and you’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time.” This contradicts the statements of the medical and public health experts on his team.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow exponentially. When questioned during a news briefing about whether lifting restrictions is supported by the experts as scientifically sound, he lashed out at the mongers of “fake news” who want this crisis to continue in order to hurt his chances of reelection.
A letter published by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, and signed by more than 800,000 doctors, urges Trump not to do away with physical distancing protocols prematurely, stating, “Significant COVID-19 transmission continues across the United States, and we need your leadership in supporting science-based recommendations on social distancing that can slow the virus.”
Doing the math
- The US has a population of about 331,000,000.
- The CDC estimates that from 40-70% of the population will become infected if nothing is done to arrest the spread of the virus.
- 80% will be OK; the other 20% will require hospitalization.
- If we, for example, say that 45% will be infected, that’s 150,000,000
- Meaning that 30,000,000 would require hospitalization.
- The U.S. has just over 924,000 staffed beds in hospitals. Of these about 200,000 are in intensive care. Even in normal conditions, about 60-70% are in already in use.
- 5-10 % of the infected will require a ventilator. That is as many as 7.5 million vents.
- According to The New York Times, the U.S. has about 170,000 ventilators.
- Dr. Emily Porter estimates that there will be only 1 vent for every 50 who need one.
Rather than taking emergency action to force the production of medical equipment and supplies, a wing of the capitalist class has calculated that the preservation of their wealth and power is more important than the lives of the most vulnerable. This reeks of the logic of the Third Reich, which murdered the disabled and weak. Trump’s refusal to use the Defense Production Act to implement such an emergency program is an act of criminal neglect.
On March 27, Trump suddenly reversed course, stating that he would require General Motors to produce ventilators. This decision is likely driven by Trump’s concern about appearances more than any real concern for the victims of the virus.
The president continued to downplay the need for ventilators. In an appearance on Fox News’s “Hannity,” Trump stated, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. …You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes and they’ll have two ventilators and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”
We are not expendable! People over profits! Emergency action now!