OPINION: Dear Trump, American deaths from COVID-19 are on you, and 300 million more lives are in your hands

A drawing of Donald Trump speaking. The speech bubble contains one of his tweets reading "So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of 'Trump'."
(Natalie Bauer • The Student Life)

Dear President Donald Trump,

This was never about you, and it still isn’t.

Stop with the media circus shows, the inane quarrels, the petty drama. Give states the aid they need. Set a clear national policy on the coronavirus response.

In January, advisers began warning you about the coronavirus, but a month ago, you were still brushing off its seriousness, comparing it to the much less fatal flu. Instead of focusing on preparing for a pandemic of proportions not seen in a hundred years, you focused on blaming China for failing to contain what you called the “Chinese virus.” 

You waited too long to invoke the Defense Production Act to commit companies like General Motors and Ford to producing ventilators required for the most severe cases. When a reporter asked you about how you mobilized the country to respond to coronavirus in February, you had no answer, but were quick to declare the reporter “fake.”

States have had to step up to fill the gaps in your response to COVID-19. Your administration has failed to adequately respond to requests from states for life-saving ventilators and personal protective equipment that their overwhelmed hospitals desperately need. 

You still haven’t declared a national shutdown, leaving it up to individual states to decide whether they will issue shelter-in-place orders for residents. This has allowed states like South Dakota, where the crisis is growing out of control, to blatantly ignore the advice of medical experts and fail to issue strict social distancing orders.

On April 3, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending that Americans wear face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, you directly contradicted these recommendations by stating that you wouldn’t wear a face mask

You retweeted a social media post about firing your top infectious disease expert after he stated the truth — that lives could have been saved if coronavirus restrictions had been put in place earlier. You lash out at advisers, medical experts, journalists — people who are just trying to do their jobs. Why don’t you do yours?

Before I had to leave college two months early, before “social distancing” and “quarantine” became common words in my daily vocabulary and before I even knew that the word “coronavirus” existed, I knew you were a racist, a sexist and a misogynist. But for all your blustering, I never thought you would let tens of thousands of people die needlessly. I gave you more credit than you deserved.

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Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’ve done a good job in how you’ve handled the coronavirus. Criticizing its response to the coronavirus, you halted funding of the World Health Organization. But let’s be real — we all know your response was weaker. 

It’s very telling when governors are forming their own coalitions to develop plans for reopening their states, instead of waiting for direction from nonexistent strong national leadership. And letting your supporters’ family members and friends die isn’t going to win you any votes. You’ve done too little, too late.

Now, you’re calling for the country to reopen by May 1. The booming economy you banked on for your re-election campaign has gone way downhill, but that’s not a valid reason for putting lives at risk. Medical experts are wary of opening up the country too soon since relaxing measures too early could cause the virus to re-emerge. No matter what you would like to believe, the economy won’t be stimulated until this virus is under control.

And the problem is bigger than just you. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has enabled you to abuse your power. In early April, a conservative U.S. Supreme Court and a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court denied Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ request to postpone primary elections and extend deadlines for absentee voting. I’m disgusted that politicians would force Americans to choose between their health and their right to vote, just because you believe lower voter turnout benefits your party.

Trump, you failed to act swiftly, but you can change the way you’re approaching this crisis. Countries like South Korea and New Zealand, which have kept coronavirus cases down, are showing us the power of competent leadership in turning the tide against the virus. Americans also deserve strong leadership in such a time of crisis. You’re not the leader I want, but you’re the leader we have.

So, be the leader we deserve.

Stop spreading misinformation. Don’t encourage Americans to violate social distancing measures by gathering in large groups to protest stay-at-home orders. Listen to and respect those who actually know what they’re talking about. Rather than furthering divides and exacerbating tensions, work with other countries to obtain the ventilators and protective equipment that American hospitals lack. Set up clear systems of distribution for these supplies so that they’re going where they need to go. Accelerate testing for coronavirus. Instead of claiming that your “authority is total,” work with states on plans for restoring normalcy to our country.

The U.S. now has the highest coronavirus death toll of any country in the world. More than 800,000 people have been infected in the U.S. More than 40,000 American lives have been lost.

Let me rephrase that — you’ve let 40,000 Americans die. How many more need to die before you change?

I refuse to let my friends or family die because of you and your incompetence, but as I type that statement, I know that this is not in my control. My life, my sister’s life, my parents’ lives, my friends’ lives — our lives — are in your hands.

In the following days, as you make decisions about how to handle the coronavirus crisis, I hope you feel the weight of 300 million American lives on your shoulders.

Every American death from coronavirus has been on you, is on you and will be on you.

Michelle Lum HM ’23 is from San Jose, California. She’s extremely upset at President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and wishes that we could have literally anyone else at the helm of the U.S. response to COVID-19.

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