Up to now, President Trump has been lucky enough to avoid catching Covid-19. He is tested two times a day, along with all of the White House staff. Despite these tests, a number of staffers have contracted the virus, including members of the Secret Service detail. But there’s no doubt that even if the president escapes the bug, there’s a strong likelihood that the pandemic will be his undoing come Election Day, Nov. 3.
At the beginning of the year, Trump was an odds-on favorite to be re-elected. The economy was humming along and unemployment was at an all-time low. But in early January, China reported its first cases of the new coronavirus. The president called for a halt to immigration from China, but in the weeks after the declaration, it’s estimated that over 20,000 Chinese citizens traveled to America without hindrance.
For the entire month of February, the president downplayed the reports of the virus, predicting that it would quickly go away. He said that the few reported cases in the U.S. would dwindle down to zero, so there was no need to worry. Fearful that any reports that the virus was spreading would harm his re-election campaign, he lost precious weeks in which he could have alerted the nation to take any and all precautions.
Well into March, Trump ignored the growing death toll and was determined to get the economy going again at all costs. His pressure on Republican governors to reopen has now turned into a massive debacle, with Florida, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina and Arkansas, among others, reporting record numbers of infections. Blindly loyal to the president, they have exposed millions of their people to the possibility of death or serious health problems. Now, as their hospitals reach capacity with Covid-19 patients, these governors are backtracking from their stupid political decisions and calling for the wearing of masks and renewed lockdowns.
When New York state was hit with the virus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sprang into action, directing the state’s millions of citizens to stay at home, to wear masks and to follow social-distancing protocols. At Cuomo’s urging, the federal government provided lifesaving equipment and set up numerous temporary shelters, but thousands of people still died in overcrowded hospitals and nursing homes. The state’s struggle to reduce the caseload, and its eventual success, should have been a warning sign to the nation that no one was safe from this silent killer.
Every day, Trump is digging the nation deeper and deeper into another tragedy. A vast majority of people want our schools to reopen, and there’s no doubt that parents are especially anxious to get their children back to learning in school buildings and not at the kitchen table. But just like the president’s blind effort to get businesses to reopen, he is pushing hard for schools to open, threatening the health of millions of teachers and students.
The federal government hasn’t provided one cent of funding for sanitizing classrooms or for testing school personnel. Teachers are being told that they must provide their own protective equipment in order to make their classrooms safe. At the same time that a number of states are reporting their highest numbers of infected citizens, Trump is threatening that any school that fails to reopen will lose federal aid — even though they don’t get aid directly from Washington.
During previous national health crises, the nation has been comforted by public-health officials who have provided guidance on how to stay alive and safe. But this time around, every time guidelines have been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, Trump has countermanded them, insisting on his own standards. Every step taken by this president has been and continues to be a recipe for disaster.
As the days go by, he could accidently expose himself to the virus. I don’t wish it on him. I’m content to wait until November, when the virus wipes away the possibility of his re-election.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.