The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy stated last week that “ending the COVID 19 pandemic” was one of the Trump administration’s greatest achievements. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The crisis is worsening and there is no end in sight.
Nine months since the United States first declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, the country has had nearly 100,000 new cases on Friday alone. Our hospitals are full again and the number of deaths is rising. Models predict that about 170,000 additional Americans will die from COVID-19 in the next three months. Nevertheless, the Trump administration continues to fail to provide a comprehensive, well-coordinated and scientifically sound federal response to the pandemic.
One of the core values of the medical profession is public trust – trust in each other and in our intentions to do good for others. It is essential to care for patients, to implement infection prevention measures and to enable individuals to protect themselves and others. To stop this pandemic, save lives, reopen our country and rebuild our economy, we need the leadership of our country to take urgent steps to restore this trust:
First, to commit to transparency. The public health response to COVID-19 at the federal, state and local levels should be fully transparent to the public, including their expectations of us, their successes and failures, and the lessons learned. Armed with the right information, Americans from all walks of life will take responsibility and rise to the challenge. If we remain true to the truth, we can also strengthen individual freedom and personal responsibility.
Second, lead with science. The evidence behind public health principles, such as wearing masks and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus, is clear. Just as the coronavirus does not care about the political party affiliation of who it infects, science and data are neither democratic nor republican. They should objectively determine our response.
Third, we should adapt to change. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have experienced new information almost daily, forcing us to adapt to this dynamic challenge. We need to be flexible and make course corrections as new information becomes available.
Fourth, restore unity in America. Given the daily tragedy caused by this pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to channel this pain and grief into collective action. We can unite Americans under a common apolitical mission of shared responsibility and service to defeat the corona virus and restore a more perfect union. This will only happen if we act quickly to honor the truth and restore public confidence.
We are determined to be part of the solution. Doctors and medical personnel across the country – both young and old – have responded courageously, often putting themselves at risk by treating patients without proper personal protective equipment. By September, it was estimated that 1,700 health care workers had died from COVID-19 while performing their duties.
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has been hiding the truth from the beginning, making it difficult for many Americans to know what information they can trust and how to protect themselves.
Since February, including last week, the President has made at least 38 groundless claims that COVID-19 will either disappear or disappear. He has also made the ridiculous and reprehensible claim that doctors overestimate the seriousness of COVID-19 for their own personal profits. The President has perpetuated other bizarre, discredited and dangerous theories, and has been identified as “the single largest factor in misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This negligent pattern of denial has also spread to members of the President’s team. Donald Trump, Jr. declared last Thursday that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. was “almost nothing” on another day when more than 1,000 Americans died from the coronavirus.
The President also regularly fails to demonstrate the basic behaviors necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He pretends that wearing masks is of questionable benefit, even though his own administration declared almost six months ago that we should all wear masks. His mass rallies knowingly endanger thousands of people, not to mention their families and communities. A study just released from Stanford found that 18 rallies during the summer resulted in more than 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and probably more than 700 deaths.
Instead of listening to scientists and health care professionals who could have helped our country contain the coronavirus and reopen it more quickly, Trump attacked them personally. He was actively engaged in damaging the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other respected public officials. In fact, at a recent rally, the president warned supporters that if Joe Biden is elected, the former vice president “will listen to the scientists.
The President has further undermined traditionally impartial scientific institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose sole agenda is to provide the American public with the best scientific evidence available. He continues to pit Americans against each other, talking about coronavirus activity in terms of red or blue states and cities as if all Americans were not worthy of the same concern.
In contrast, Biden has a long track record of building public trust. At its core, he believes that every American life is important and has value. That’s why thousands of doctors, nurses and health care workers from across the political spectrum – Democrats, Republicans, independents and more – are voting for Biden in this election.
With over 90 million Americans already having voted, we are seeing that citizens are no longer willing to stand on the sidelines as our loved ones, communities and our country are in danger. The worst is yet to come, but you have the power to help. That power begins with you exercising your right to vote for leaders who are committed to restoring public confidence and leading us out of this national crisis.
Dr. Edward Sheen is a gastroenterologist. He is a member of the faculty of Washington University and Stanford University. He was a Fellow of the White House under President Barack Obama.
Mathew Alexander is a medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Dr. Alice Chen is a general internist in Washington, D.C. Twitter @atychen.
Dr. Ali Khan is a general internist in Chicago. Twittered: @alikhan28.
Dr. Joseph V. Sakran, is director of general emergency surgery and trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Twittered: @JosephSakran.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors….