Letters to the Editor: President Trump is dangerous for our health
Joel Wendland-Liu

Editor's note: Amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and the President Donald Trump's inability to contain this problem, this is a letter from Joel Wendland-Liu, an associate professor of the integrative, religious and intercultural studies department at Grand Valley State University in the U.S. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The worsening disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the U.S. economy has left the American people reeling. The November 3 election presents a choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This choice will determine whether these accumulating problems will deepen through callous or inept policies or if the country's leadership is ready to find solutions.

Let's recap what Trump has done in the face of disaster. International public health officials warned Trump in early January that a new virus had appeared in Wuhan, China. By March 2020, the World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus's spread as a global pandemic. The world watched as the Chinese government and its people fought the disease by building hospitals, making rapid scientific discoveries, swiftly manufacturing personal protective equipment, establishing public health rules and requirements to slow the spread of infection, and mobilizing hundreds of thousands in popular organizations to care for sick and displaced.

What did the "leader of the free world" do? He called the pandemic a Democratic Party "hoax." He mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask in public. He promoted untested treatments, suggested ingesting disinfectants, and incorrectly talked about taking antibiotics to fight it. He urged his followers to "liberate" states that had ordered closures of many businesses and asked people to stay home. He applauded when violent right-wing militias, waving Confederate flags and assault rifles, stormed the Michigan capitol building, threatening to lynch the governor.

Trump blamed China for the pandemic and used phrases like "Wuhan virus" and "kung flu" to inspire racist hatred of China among his followers. Violent and abusive incidents that targeted Asian Americans in the U.S. linked explicitly to Trump's words snowballed over the spring and summer.

His administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase testing equipment that went unused. He used federal purchases of ventilators and personal protective equipment as blackmail to extract positive statements from state and local officials. He encouraged his supporters to flout mask-wearing rules, to gather unprotected in large rallies, and share conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus and its treatment.

Trump pushed to "re-open" the economy in early April after almost no response to the pandemic. They blamed Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, and refused to accept leadership responsibility for handling the problem.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the World Health Organization, complaining about its positive attitude toward China's handling of the pandemic. This move threatens U.S. scientific access to vital data about the virus's spread globally and endangers Americans and the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about American energy production during a visit in Midland, Texas, July 29, 2020. /AP

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about American energy production during a visit in Midland, Texas, July 29, 2020. /AP

More than 155,000 Americans have died since March, and still, there is no end in sight to the pandemic. Trump continues to downplay scientific warnings that the U.S. is entering a new phase of danger.

Trump stalled economic relief packages and has demanded billions of new spending for military weapons. Trump and his Senate allies have blocked a new relief bill by reducing unemployment compensation significantly. They believe that by cutting aid to almost 30 million newly unemployed workers, they can force them to return to the workplace, even without new health and safety requirements.

Now, Trump is pushing for schools to re-open in-person classes this fall without a plan to ensure the safety of the children, teachers, or school staff. Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos, an owner of several schools herself and an advocate for eliminating public schools, has refused to develop a safety plan. She even told reporters inaccurately that children can't get the disease and would block its spread. She has threatened to withhold federal financing from schools that delay re-opening to ensure their communities' safety.

DeVos's willful ignorance of public health facts and her refusal to lead on safety has sparked a confrontation with the two largest teachers' unions. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently warned that if Trump officials force a re-opening, "nothing is off the table—not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes."

Trump's support is in free fall with polls showing that most Americans mistrust his handling of the problem. The number of infections and deaths has exploded in states seen as Republican strongholds, like Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Florida. These developments have forced him to try to create the impression that he cares. He has worn a mask twice in public. He has briefly attempted to restrain his use of social media to deliver his emotional opinions.

But lashing out at critics remains his primary form of communication with the public. Golf has a firmer grip on his attention than public health reports.

The evidence is clear. Trump has mishandled the CVOID-19 crisis. His actions led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths of our family members, friends, and neighbors. Supporting his re-election would be a disaster for our health and welfare.

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