By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
I’ve never experienced a more pervasive feeling of anxiety permeating our country in my lifetime than this week’s explosion of the coronavirus pandemic in America.
In a few days we’ve seen every avenue of life in this country violently disrupted by the virus, which threatens to kill millions globally.
And although apparently the coronavirus alarm was finally triggered this week within the Trump White House, the fear, loathing, pain and death we are all experiencing could have been predicted months ago.
No, the coronavirus was never a “hoax.”
But, because the 45th president treated it as such for weeks, we may never know how much death and destruction we could have prevented.
This week, Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent finally put the question to Trump I’ve been wanting to hear when she asked, “…You did disband the White House pandemic office. And the officials working in that office left this administration abruptly,” Alcindor said. “So what responsibility do you take to that? And the officials that worked in that office said that you– that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”
Given the fact it was Alcindor, a Black woman challenging Trump’s competence, or rather utilizing empirical evidence to once again reveal his manifest incompetence, his reaction was all too predictable.
“Well, I think it’s a nasty question,” Trump said.
See, “nasty” is the N-word Trump uses when a person of color (as Alcindor has done in the past) challenges him on an issue and he would actually like to call them the original N-word.
It was another U.S. President John Adams, who said, “Facts are stubborn things.”
The fact is in 2016, President Obama created the National Security Council’s global health security office. In May 2018, the Trump Administration was warned by Luciano Borio, Trump’s director of medical and biodefense preparedness, that a flu pandemic was the nation’s number one health security threat. Trump disbanded the office the same year.
The main directive of the office would have been to identify public health catastrophes like the one that erupted in China late in 2019. On January 30,The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a, “public health emergency of international concern.” The next day Trump’s Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar declared coronavirus a public health emergency for the United States.
But, almost a month later on Feb. 28, at a campaign rally in South Carolina, Trump declared the deadly virus was the Democrats “new hoax.”
The same day Trump said, “It’s going to disappear,” at a press conference at the White House. “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
And there have been many other idiotic statements made by Trump undermining the seriousness of the virus and massively overstating his administration’s capacity to control it. Just this week on March 16, Trump said the virus was under, “tremendous control.”
The same week all hell has broken loose.
Now, Trump says nobody is to blame (except the Chinese of course) for the spread of coronavirus in America and the seemingly unprecedented national public health crisis it has sparked.
I wonder if President Obama would have been extended the same largesse if he had made such a catastrophic blunder as Trump did in shuttering the nation’s pandemic awareness office, despite warnings of imminent danger and death.
I think we all know the answer to that.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.