The biggest errors the Trump administration made in response to COVID
New research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health details the U.S. government’s egregious mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, identifies a powerful predictor of COVID-19 deaths, and suggests responses that could still alleviate the pandemic’s damage.
The study’s damning conclusion: “The evidence suggests that ineffective national policies and responses, especially as compared to those of other wealthy nations or compared to the intricate preparation and planning by previous administrations of both parties, have been driving the terrible toll of COVID-19 and its inequities in the U.S.”
The costliest errors were committed in the pandemic’s earliest stages, the study finds. The Trump administration’s initial U.S. travel ban on Jan. 31 applied only to non-U.S. travelers and only to travelers coming from China, though the virus was “already known to be present in Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, Finland, and the United Kingdom.” No symptom screening on arrival was required, nor was quarantining. Later research “found repeatedly” that “the great majority” of the virus introductions to the U.S. came not from China but from European strains.
Several other countries handled the pandemic far more effectively. For example, Australia closed its borders to all non-Australian citizens on March 15, when only 300 cases had been reported, and mandated “14-day, supervised quarantine in a hotel for all international arrivals (including Australian citizens)” plus “aggressive testing and contact tracing.” As of Nov. 12, Australia had recorded 36 COVID-19 deaths per million vs. 773 COVID-19 deaths per million in the U.S., says the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. “This is the difference between establishing effective national border policies and failing to do so,” the researchers say.
Those blunders can’t be corrected, but others can be. The study identifies three workplace policy mistakes that could still be remedied at any time. [Details left out.]
- Failure to use federal authority and budget to supply PPE.
- Failure to require “mandatory universal paid sick leave for those unable to work due to COVID-19.”
- Failure to mandate “standards for occupational exposures.”
Though the study is discouraging, the researchers find reason for hope: “Despite the understandable dismay at the state of the pandemic in the United States, it is not too late to make a difference, and that difference starts with the implementation of apt policies.”