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By Shiam Kannan

Freshman, Cornell

Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States lost over 350,000 Americans due to the virus, and having over 21 million cases. One may be tempted to conclude that President Trump did a poor job handling the pandemic. But hindsight is always 20-20, and while he could have done more, given the information available at the time, the President did a good job trying to limit cases while keeping the economy afloat.

Perhaps the President’s strongest performance throughout the pandemic has been the US economy. Despite the initial drop in the stock market following the early surge in cases, stocks have rebounded to record levels, with the Dow Jones recently crossing the landmark 30,000 point threshold. Performance has also been commendable in terms of jobs. Despite predictions that COVID-19 would lead to a drawn-out recession that would take years to recover from, Trump’s refusal to embrace widespread lockdown measures and actions by the Federal Reserve to increase liquidity staved off a major recession and prevented the economy from collapsing. Currently, the US economy is operating at 75% of where it was in March. The unemployment rate has dropped substantially from over 14% in May 2020 to 6.7% in November. Job growth has also been strong  Although the US lost 20.8 million jobs in April of 2020, job growth quickly rebounded, with 4.78 million jobs added in June after a 2.73 million increase in May. While job growth has slowed down since, the numbers indicate that despite rising case numbers, the economy is still in recovery.

Regarding the handling of the pandemic itself, President Trump took strong initial steps to curb the impact of the virus in the United States. Notably, he banned travel from China on January 31, 2020, despite criticism from Democrats. After the first COVID-19 case appeared in the US on January 15th, the Trump Administration immediately began implementing screening in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York for incoming flights by January 17th. Despite public health officials downplaying the pandemic due to a few number of cases at the time the Trump Administration clearly took proactive action. At this time, many Democrats and health officials criticized Trump’s decision to ban international travel, saying the pandemic would not become a crisis. Democrats also hindered the President’s efforts to request supplemental funding for the COVID-19 pandemic, with Speaker Pelosi refusing to vote on the President’s request for $2 billion in COVID funding. With such resistance, the President was limited in what he could do to prevent the spread of the virus. While these Democrats cannot be blamed for downplaying the pandemic, as nobody knew how bad things would get back then, Trump cannot be blamed either, as he took whatever actions were within his power to try and prevent COVID from spreading in the US.

Overall, while it is easy to blame President Trump for the proliferation of COVID in the United States, the truth is that all of us had very limited information at the start. Despite the lack of knowledge, the President did take action to try and prevent the spread through travel bans, screening, and requesting funding. The strong economy Trump built in the prior years ensured that any resulting recession would not be long and devastating, and as such, the economy quickly recovered. Therefore, given the information the President and the experts had, Trump’s response to COVID was appropriate and the best possible at the time; for that reason he has earned a B+.

Trump’s COVID Response Grade: B+

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