Letter to the Editor: We’ve already lost too much time

Here are a couple of things I think most Americans can agree on:

• We are the richest, most advanced nation in the world.

• We have the world’s best doctors, hospitals and schools of medicine.

And yet by the end of this month, 200,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19. New estimates say the number of deaths could reach 400,000 by year’s end.

Which leads to something else Americans should be able to agree on: Our response to COVID-19 ranks among the worst in the world.

The president blames China, but the disease’s origin is irrelevant. The 169 countries, not including China, tracked by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine could say the same.

Donald Trump also likes to cherry-pick statistics. He highlights areas where COVID-19 cases are falling and ignores those where they’re rising.

But here are two numbers he won’t mention: The U.S. has about 4.25% of the world’s population, but about 22% of the COVID-19 deaths.

There’s no way to spin those numbers to make the U.S. response to the pandemic look good. It’s just plain awful.

Trump isn’t responsible for every single death, but he is the person most responsible for our failure to contain the pandemic.

And now, we have word from the president himself that he knew of the danger all along.

On Feb. 7, in a recorded phone call, Trump told reporter Bob Woodward: “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. … It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. … This is deadly stuff.”

That’s not what he told the American public. He said it was like the flu, and it was going to go away “like a miracle.”

Trump’s excuse for lying to the American people about the true dangers of the pandemic was that he didn’t want the public to panic.

That’s not how a real leader handles a crisis.

The modern gold standard for crisis leadership was set by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. On May 13, 1940 — leading a country virtually alone in facing a Nazi war machine that had blitzkrieged its way across the continent — Churchill addressed the House of Commons: “I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.”

He told the truth. He didn’t downplay the threat. He prepared people for the struggle and suffering he knew was coming.

And he promised only what he knew he could deliver: his own “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

That’s leadership. And the country responded as one to an overwhelming threat.

The same could have happened here. Instead, we have people whining about wearing masks.

Trump’s incompetence, in turn, has led to the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its August report, said there are now 11.5 million fewer nonfarm jobs than there were in February, before COVID-19 began taking its toll.

Locally, the August report from the Delaware Restaurant Association said that 23,500 restaurant workers have lost their jobs and that 20%-30% of the state’s restaurants may close permanently.

Similar reports will continue. Wide swaths of our economy will not recover until the pandemic is under control.

Which brings me to the April 30 letter that 15 Republican legislators wrote to Gov. John Carney, demanding that he reopen the state’s economy.

“More government aid is not the answer,” they wrote. “Enhanced unemployment benefits, and new government loans and grants, while buying some time, cannot take the place of a functioning economy.”

They were wrong. We cannot have a fully “functioning economy” until the pandemic is under control.

We did — and do — need more federal government aid for small businesses, child care centers and state and local governments. More than anything, we need a national plan to confront the worst public health and economic crisis of our generation.

Republicans should be demanding Trump’s resignation. His actions have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and the destruction of millions of jobs and businesses. The crimes of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon pale by comparison.

Not that I expect Republicans to run Trump out of town.

But they should, at least, tell the president to level with the American people, to prepare a national strategy.

We can’t afford to wait until after the election. Too many lives are at stake, too many jobs and too many businesses. That should be something we all agree on.

Don Flood
Lewes