As the coronavirus pandemic tears its way through the United States, more and more evidence emerges by the week exposing the depths of the inexcusable mismanagement of the Trump administration and just how much responsibility for the crisis’ severity lies with the President.
It feels like each passing day is met with a new report on how doctors and nurses around the United States are desperate for masks, gowns, goggles, and other critical medical supplies that allow them to treat COVID-19 patients without exposing themselves to infection.
Many have been forced to improvise, using trash bags, rain ponchos, and other sundry items to make up for the dire shortage of personal protective equipment across the country. Life-saving ventilators are in similarly short supply, forcing governors to spend outrageous sums of money in eBay-like bidding wars in order to save their citizens.
Now it appears that the President and his team directly contributed to the catastrophic dearth of medical supplies in the middle of a pandemic. A new Congressional report from Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), entitled “Everyone But Us,” shows that the United States increased exports of ventilators by 22.7% from January to February of this year and that the value of mask exports to China jumped by a staggering 1094% in February as compared to the average from last year.
These figures corroborate documents revealed by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) that show the Trump administration was actively pushing for American businesses to export medical supplies to China as recently as March 2nd.
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While selling medical supplies to another nation that desperately needed them is one thing — though the pandemic profiteering is just yet another repulsive show of the insatiable greed that animates the Trump administration — another is entirely failing to replace the stockpiles as they’re being sold off despite having been warned that Americans would almost certainly need those supplies extremely soon. The report says:
“The import data that we identified and reviewed also reveal that the Trump Administration failed to prepare for COVID-19 and to protect the health of Americans. From January to February, when the U.S. should have been stockpiling medical supplies, the value of ventilator imports dropped by more than 10 percent. The data shows a similar pattern with PPE and cleaning supplies, which fell by 11.3%, over $161 million from January to February 2020, and N95 masks in particular, which fell by 14.2%.”
On top of all this, the Trump administration then dragged its feet in invoking the Defense Production Act to kick-start the production of all these necessary items, which we might not be able to produce in the required amounts until months from now.
“Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar declared a public health emergency on January 31, but it wasn’t until six weeks later, on March 13, that President Trump declared a national emergency, which is required to unlock the powers of the DPA. Trump then waited until March 25—yet another week of delay (and more poignantly, an additional 675 deaths) after his initial emergency declaration—to issue Executive Order 13910, allowing Secretary Azar to designate key supplies as “scarce.”
Two more days passed before the Administration claimed it was issuing its first order under the DPA, to General Motors to make ventilators. However, as of April 2—three weeks and 5,600 deaths after the initial emergency declaration—no such order had been issued. At this point, the public has lost trust in the Trump Administration’s claims about the steps they are taking to ensure access to medical supplies, including limits on exports.”
Yesterday, the death toll from the coronavirus reached over 10,000 lives lost. How many of those lives were lost because our nation was so unprepared for the crisis? How many more lives will be lost because the administration failed to heed to warnings?
When this is over, a full Congressional criminal investigation must be carried out against the Trump administration and its members. Justice demands that we ensure that he and his people are held accountable for this kind of staggering, inexcusable negligence.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.