Ronald Reagan used to say that the difference between a recession and a depression is that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you lose yours. That analogy also applies when a global health crisis occurs. Back in January, when Americans first heard about the coronavirus outbreak in China, most of us wrote it off. It wasn’t real to us. It didn’t affect us. But then, when COVID-19 invaded the United States and later caused our favorite events to be canceled, we admitted it was a pandemic. Suddenly, the virus was real to us and was directly affecting our lives. No ACC tournament. No High Point Furniture Market. No Tanger or RiverRun, no school and no proms. Even churches started canceling Sunday services. Perhaps it’s just human nature to only care about something when it lands in your back yard, but it’s also true that our fears and frustrations about the coronavirus have been exacerbated by mixed messages, mismanagement, and incompetence from a federal government that should have seen this coming and should have been better prepared.
The previous administration was prepared. That’s because President Obama created a Pandemic Response Team under his National Security Council, a team that dealt effectively and proactively with the Ebola virus. But guess what? After taking office, the Trump administration dismantled the Pandemic Response Team and has also proposed major funding cuts to the CDC. And so, instead of having a team in place to get out in front of COVID-19 back in early January, the Trump administration had to start from scratch. To make matters worse, there were unnecessary delays in responding to the crisis because we had a president at the helm who can’t seem to grasp facts or tell the truth. At first, he said the coronavirus was “a hoax” perpetrated by the Democrats and the liberal media (Donald Jr. even chimed in by saying that Democrats wanted millions of people to die in order to deny his father a second term in office). Once Trump realized the virus was not a hoax, he announced that it had been contained (it hadn’t). Then he said it would die out in warm weather, and, “like a miracle, it will disappear.” Our Commander-in-Chief then advised anyone who had the virus to go on into work as per normal. Oh yes, and he assured us that everyone who needed to be tested could be tested, even though tests weren’t readily available. He also said that we would have a vaccine within a few months, even though experts said it would take more than a year to develop. And with typical Trump bluster, he told us, “This virus will not have a chance against us.”
Beth Cameron, who once led Obama’s Pandemic Response Team, told CNN that if Trump hadn’t disbanded her group, our government would have gotten ahead of the coronavirus crisis early on. For example, we knew early in January that Wuhan, China, was the epicenter of a potential pandemic, and a response team already in place could have stopped all flights from China. Instead, on Jan. 15, a Washington state man arrived at the Seattle airport from Wuhan, and he became the first person to bring COVID-19 to our shores. From there, we now have over 3,000 cases reported (including 23 here in North Carolina) and 70 deaths resulting. The obvious conclusion from which we can draw is that early, decisive action could have prevented the virus from getting here in the first place. Instead, we are now trying to mitigate the spread of the virus with unprecedented closures and cancellations.
Trump isn’t responsible for creating COVID-19, but he is responsible for the delays that allowed infected individuals to enter our country. As such, voters will decide this fall if Trump’s handling of the crisis warrants his removal or renewal, but this is no time for political speculation. The main thing now is for everyone to exercise common sense. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, stay away from crowds, and stay home if you’re feeling sick. And if you want accurate information about the virus, including updates on testing, visit the special CDC website, www.coronavirus.gov. Stay vigilant, and one day, “like a miracle, the virus will disappear.”
Jim Longworth is the host of Triad Today, airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).