Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

President Trump’s role in the US response to coronavirus and the US death toll that resulted

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Note that the graph is not of the absolute number of deaths. Because the US has a much greater population than South Korea (328.2 million for US vs. 51.6 million for South Korea), the US will naturally suffer more deaths. But what about the proportional death rate? The chart shows the rate of deaths — number of deaths per 10 million of population — and that number can be directly compared since it finesses the disparity in population size.

Take a look at that chart. The US, based on what might have been done (and in fact was done, in South Korea) has a great number of excess deaths — an excess due to the bungled response from the US.

The chart is from a NY Times article by David Leonhardt, which begins:

The United States and South Korea each had their first confirmed case of the coronavirus around Jan. 20. They each suffered their first death in late February. If anything, South Korea appeared to be slightly ahead of the United States, with more cases and more deaths, in early March.

But then the two countries began following very different paths.

From the beginning, South Korea took the virus extremely seriously, with widespread testing, tracking of cases and quarantining. The results have been impressive: Only about 220 deaths so far, and not a single day with more than a dozen deaths.

The situation in the United States, of course, has been radically different. About 2,000 Americans have been dying each day since early last week, and the United States now has the highest death toll of any country: more than 22,000 overall. In the chart above, you can see the number of new deaths each day for the two countries, adjusted for the population of each.

How did this happen?

There are multiple reasons that the virus has had such a different toll in different countries. But one of the reasons for the large toll in the United States is clearly President Trump. Over the weekend, The Times published a long story documenting the many warnings that he received throughout late January, February and much of March, about the likely severity of the virus and the need to take action.

He rejected those warnings, again and again. He chose a path of denial, rather than a path of aggressive response, as South Korea did.

In late January, several officials — including Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, and Peter Navarro, the trade adviser — told the president that the virus would likely do great damage unless the country responded. On Feb. 21, Trump administration officials conducted a meeting during which they discussed the need to close schools, cancel large gatherings and take other measures. On Feb. 25, a top disease expert in the government went so far as to make a public warning, only to be sidelined for doing so.

Each time, Trump’s response was a version of “stop panicking,” as The Times story explains.

He now conducts daily briefings where he tries to rewrite history, claiming that he knew it would be a serious problem all along. That is simply false. There is a long trail of evidence (including his own words) showing that he chose inaction over action, overruling the advice of scientists, public health experts and even some of his own advisers.

Hundreds more Americans are likely to die of the virus again today. For that, . . .

Continue reading.

I’ve read some comments that we should not assign blame, but of course President Trump vehemently disagrees: he is quick to assign blame, left and and right. And quick to act on it, firing people he blames (mostly people who have the temerity to disagree with him). Indeed, he seems to be moving toward firing Dr. Anthony Fauci right now because Dr. Fauci’s opinions as a doctor and epidemiologist don’t match Trump’s opinions. Trump has great respect for his own “knowledge” and no respect at all for the knowledge of others.

I am not so much interested in assigning blame as in assessing responsibility for reasons of accountability, something Republicans have long endorsed strongly. And the President of the US does, by virtue of his office and role, have a leadership responsibility. Harry S Truman famously had a sign on his desk, “The buck stops here.” President Trump apparently dislikes that sentiment — perhaps Truman’s sign should be located and nailed to the desktop, facing President Trump.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2020 at 1:21 pm

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