In a word, President Trump’s response to COVID-19 was… atrocious. While pool parties and raves are being safely held on the other side of the world, Americans face the most COVID cases and highest death tolls since coronavirus reached our borders. California is back under lockdown, New York City public schools are struggling to stay open, Colorado claims the first US case of the more transmissible variant of COVID, and yet, Americans are still flying to the UK, Mexico, and cross country for vacation.
Okay, let’s backtrack. The biggest issue with President Trump’s response to COVID-19 was the original lack thereof and continuous non-prioritization of the pandemic. His constant distrust in science and willful ignorance that the virus doesn’t exist has led to further disbelief from Americans, the loss of American lives, and increased tensions towards Asian Americans.
The first case of COVID-19 in the US was reported nearly a year ago on January 20, 2020, while the first signs of this “mysterious flu-like virus” dates back to September of 2019. The Trump administration missed a clear opportunity to prepare for the inevitable spread of COVID-19 in the US. When it finally reached our borders, President Trump attempted to assure Americans it wasn’t a big deal, doing little to implement a plan that would deal with coronavirus and keep it out of the states. In comparison, South Korea and many other nations kept the disease under control without paralyzing their health and economic systems by acting precautionary rather than reactionary. Informed by their experience with MERS, South Korea instituted testing, travel quarantine facilities, and contact tracing with cell phone location tracking, none of which was done by the US.
Time progressed and the 2020 presidential election drew closer. The American people continued to suffer from a lack of leadership, universal mandates, and safety procedures. After other national tragedies such as 9/11 and natural disasters, sitting presidents demonstrated immediate action and set an example for the American people. On the other hand, President Trump addressed the pandemic with slow and inconsistent actions. The president mocked the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for wearing a mask for months and was not seen in public with a mask until July. While quick to criticize other protests happening in the country at the time, he praised mask mandate protestors in Michigan as “very responsible people.” He continued holding in-person rallies with little to no masks in sight and no social distancing. Even after he and close advisors were infected with COVID-19, these events continued with the president claiming he was “immune”. All of this demonstrates that President Trump and his advisors prioritized his reelection and the maintenance of power rather than the health and livelihoods of the people he leads. In doing so, he failed to use his power to protect the American people.
Rather than recognizing his own failures in listening to science and instituting precautionary plans, President Trump continues to blame China for spreading the coronavirus in the United States. When referring to the virus, he makes it a point to use rhetoric such as “China virus” and “Kung flu”, which leads to subsequent hate crimes and enables racism towards Asian Americans. This rhetoric has directly made life more difficult and dangerous for Asian-Americans throughout the country. In San Francisco, a Chinese-American grandma had acid thrown at her. In New York, another Chinese-grandma was lit on fire. Asian Americans across the country experienced shunning, spitting, slurs, shoving, and other physical altercations. As an Asian American, specifically a Chinese American, in a predominantly non-Asian area myself, I am often terrified to go on a walk for fear of being assaulted or confronted.
President Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been lacking. Since November, he has focused his efforts on claiming the election fraudulent rather than the steep increase in both COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past few months. The impacts of his apathy, disbelief in science, and racist verbal assaults on the Asian community is palpable and felt by Americans every single day as we continue to struggle with the pandemic in 2021.