In April, President Donald Trump’s tone when discussing the coronavirus crisis was much different from what it had been in February — when the president downplayed the threat it posed to the United States. Trump finally, acknowledged how deadly COVID-19 was. But despite this superficial change, according to Jeremy Konyndyk, an expert in outbreak preparedness, Trump’s response to the crisis has continued to be woefully inadequate.
The New York Times, in an article published in late March, described February as a “lost month” in which Trump should have been getting the U.S. prepared for a deadly pandemic but didn’t take the threat seriously. And Konyndyk, journalist German Lopez explains in Vox, believes that April was a lost month as well.
Konyndyk used a Twitter thread to describe the ways in which “the federal government wasted April in its response to the coronavirus. Despite some gains in March on health care capacity and testing, the U.S. failed to capitalize on social distancing throughout April to continue scaling up measures and get the coronavirus under control.”
The U.S., according to Konyndyk, should have done a lot more coronavirus testing last month.
“In the last week of April,” Lopez points out, “the U.S. averaged around 220,000 tests a day — not much of an improvement from the roughly 150,000 a day that it reported during the first few weeks of the month, and far from what experts say is needed to control the outbreak as South Korea and Germany have.”
Trump has been pushing for the U.S. to reopen its economy sooner rather than later, but Konyndyk believes it is much too soon for that to happen. He told Vox: “There’s no definitive downturn. We’re on a plateau.”
US cases, April 1: 25.1k US cases, April 30: 29.5k We have spent the month of April on a plateau. Daily counts flu… https://t.co/RQWEykdItL— Jeremy PLEASE WEAR MASKS! Konyndyk (@Jeremy PLEASE WEAR MASKS! Konyndyk) 1588310268.0
So for each month we remain on the plateau, we risk losing more Americans than we lost in nearly a decade in Vietna… https://t.co/GkErR8E8kq— Jeremy PLEASE WEAR MASKS! Konyndyk (@Jeremy PLEASE WEAR MASKS! Konyndyk) 1588310269.0
Coronavirus has inflicted widespread misery on a long list of countries. On Tuesday, for example, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported COVID-19 death counts of 29,315 for Italy, 25,428 for Spain and 25,204 for France compared to more than 70,100 deaths in the United States. But Konyndyk, Lopez observes, believes that the U.S. has been uniquely bad in its coronavirus response in that it continued to screw up even when it became obvious how much of a threat the disease posed.
When asked what the U.S. should have done in April that it didn’t do, Konyndyk responded: “We should have been laying the groundwork for going from being stuck to actually suppressing cases, and laying the groundwork for an ability to lift the (stay-at-home) orders in a safe way.”
The U.S., Konyndyk stressed, still needs to seriously ramp up its coronavirus testing.
“We need to test much more widely,” Konyndyk told Vox. “We need to scale up contact tracing. We need to protect the most vulnerable populations. We need enhanced surveillance so we can actually see what this virus is doing. And we need to reinforce the hospital system.”