(CNN) — The hundreds of thousands of citizens whose deaths from COVID-19 could have been prevented are of national and political responsibility, but the polarization of the United States that exacerbated the pandemic threatens to deprive them of their fair share.
A haunting admission of the Dr. Deborah Birx in a new CNN documentary that after the first wave of infection last year, the death toll could have dropped substantially, it will be heartbreaking for those who lost loved ones. It also casts new scrutiny on former President Donald Trump’s negligent management of the pandemic and his willingness to put economic and political goals above science and public welfare.
The revelations by Birx, a well-respected international health expert before she became the Trump White House coronavirus response coordinator, represent the most intimate view yet into the chaotic and feudal Trump White House when covid-19 hit. The statements by Birx and his colleagues were made in the CNN documentary called “Covid war: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out,” which aired Sunday night.
I see it this way. It’s the first time we’ve had an excuse, ”Birx told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “There were around 100,000 deaths that came from that original increase. All the others, in my opinion, could have been mitigated or substantially decreased.
Birx’s anguish burns through the documentary. And while critics may blame her for not speaking out when she was in government, her comments seem like an attempt to precipitate a reckoning that may provide lessons on how the United States can perform more effectively in a future pandemic.
“At the autopsy, we have to get out of this and learn how to do it better, next time,” Birx said.
The revelations of five other top government doctors in the documentary about the country’s unpreparedness for the pandemic will also inevitably intensify a discussion about how the United States assesses the crisis, once it subsides. The question of whether there should be some kind of official and independent investigation into the government’s response to the pandemic will be politically tense, but difficult to avoid.
The controversy was supposed to end with Trump
Birx told Gupta that while his fellow scientists understood the magnitude of the looming crisis, some White House officials refused to take it seriously enough. Others were fatalistic about what could be done. Birx also said that when he told CNN the truth last August about the expansive penetration of the coronavirus on US soil, he received a “very difficult” call of an angry Trump.
An accusation as serious as Birx’s will inevitably center the blame on the former president himself, as his desk was where the ball was supposed to stop. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, told Gupta, for example, that Trump’s demands to reopen the country in contravention of the advice of government health experts came as “a punch in the ass. the chest”. CNN has requested comment from the former president’s office, but has not received a response so far.
But the responsibility needed after a national disaster of such scale goes beyond an assessment of the former president’s culpability, especially in a week in which the nation is poised to mark the 550,000th death from covid-19 and as infections rise. again despite a now humming vaccination program.
Trump’s instincts to push for economic openings last summer were mirrored by many Republican governors in the southern states who ended up sparking a summer viral wave. Trump did not create the stark political divisions in the country that hampered the response to the pandemic, but he arguably made things worse. With his uncanny talent for breaking down national divisions, he surely understood the explosive impact of his disdain for wearing masks, turning it into a political symbol rather an essential public health measure. Birx said there was a feeling among staff that Trump did not support wearing masks in the White House.
Any account of the pandemic must consider the extent to which resistance to such measures was rooted in quintessential American distrust of government authority, reverence for individual freedom, and a corporate streak, all characteristics that in different circumstances could be said to define strengths of the US but often, the multiple diffuse centers of power in the US political system (federal, state and local) seem to have exacerbated the task of organizing an effective national response to the crisis, especially in terms of covid-19 testing or provision of protective equipment for hospital workers.
There is also a question about how much responsibility officials were willing to take to beat the virus, especially as patience ran out and it continues for more than a year in the nightmare. The unresolved balance between public health and allowing economic activity to sustain life in other ways has consistently emerged during the pandemic and is a contributing factor in attributing blame for unnecessary deaths.
Blinken: US will not seek to punish China
The role of China, where the virus was first discovered, is also under further examination in the documentary. Trump’s head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, voiced the controversial opinion in the documentary that the pathogen came from a Chinese laboratory. There is no evidence for such a claim. Fauci said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the “most likely” explanation is that the virus adapted in nature before spreading to humans. But China’s role in the initial outbreak of the crisis, and if it did not alert the rest of the world slowly, is a crucial dimension of post-pandemic assessments. Fauci said in the CNN documentary that more information from Beijing earlier could have made a “significant” difference.
But Trump and his acolytes, with their withering about the “China virus,” sought to cover up their own subsequent failures in the fight against the pandemic.
The current Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, indicated in the program «State of the Union» de CNN on Sunday that the United States would not seek to punish China for the crisis, but would instead seek new accountability from Beijing.
“I think we need to focus on making sure that we are protecting ourselves and the world in the future. And that will require many reforms. And it will require China to do things that it has not done in the past, “Blinken told Dana Bash. Given the worsening state of US relations with China, some sort of official US government position on its role in the pandemic is becoming a national security imperative.
“We are so divided”
In a sense, Trump has already paid a high price for his mismanagement of a virus that he repeatedly said was “under control,” would “go away,” and admitted to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward that he downplayed it. His pandemic leadership and Joe Biden’s promises to do better were a key factor in Trump becoming the first president in nearly 30 years not to win a second term.
Trump’s role in history will be inseparable from the fate of hundreds of thousands of Americans, whom Birx hinted could have been saved had he not led one of the world’s worst attempts to counter COVID-19, at least apart from the development of vaccines, in which his team played an important role.
Past national disasters have sparked introspection and investigations that seek to discover how adverse events occurred and provide a moment of catharsis and recommendations to prevent their recurrence.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson ordered the Warren Commission, which established that the former president was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was acting alone. Years of subsequent gossip and bickering, however, offer a warning to those who hope that a similar pandemic panel could dispel rampant conspiracy theories.
The congressional mandate of the September 11 commission produced a series of recommendations to protect the United States against international terrorism after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Under investigation that could be relevant to the current crisis, He exposed Washington’s lack of preparedness for the disaster and considered the balance between civil liberties and government-mandated security measures and how poor coordination within the government led to the tragedy.
While a number of Congressional investigations are underway to probe the origin of the pandemic and the U.S. response, the possibility of an independent, non-partisan COVID-19 commission based on the 9/11 panel appears questionable. Biden and the Democrats who run the House and Senate could create such a commission. But it is doubtful that he can garner bipartisan support critical to his credibility.
It’s not clear that senior Republicans want to get to the root of what went wrong in the pandemic, as a final report would likely be highly critical of Trump. The former president remains a force in Republican politics and could influence any lawmaker in his party who wants transparency.
Attempts to set up a September 11-style investigation into the insurrection of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 have already fallen against partisan divisions. Republicans and Democrats blame each other for disputes over the party composition of the panel, which threatens to derail it entirely. Republicans tried to deflect Trump’s blame by demanding that the commission also investigate Black Lives Matter and Antifa, even though there is no evidence that either group was involved in the insurrection.
The dispute underscores two fundamental differences between the United States after 9/11 and during the pandemic: a fracture of national unity and a lack of a common respect for the truth.
As former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn put it in the CNN documentary: “We are so divided and there is a lot of mistrust across the board in America … We have to overcome that. We need to unite.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism