Health Letter, December 2020
By Michael Carome, M.D.
If you’re not outraged,
you’re not paying attention!
Read what Public Citizen has to say about the biggest blunders and outrageous offenses in the world of public health, published monthly in Health Letter.
In the midst of a catastrophic explosion in COVID-19 cases and deaths throughout the country, President Donald Trump and his craven minions for weeks blocked the legally established process for the orderly transition of executive power to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. At the same time, the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic remained as inept and chaotic as ever, with White House officials ignoring facts and continuing to downplay the severity of the pandemic.
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, in November alone, the number of reported confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed an astounding 4.3 million and the number of reported COVID-19 deaths was more than 36,000. By way of comparison, it took six months — late January to late July — for the country to reach its first four million cases. On Nov. 24, the reported death toll exceeded 2,000 for the first time since May 6.
On Nov. 15, infamous White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas — a neuroradiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who has no expertise in infectious disease and in recent months has been Trump’s de facto chief “scientific” adviser for the pandemic — posted a disturbing tweet urging Michigan residents to “rise up” against emergency public health measures for containing the COVID-19 surge that had been ordered by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
CNN reported on Nov. 19 that U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar had ordered HHS staff not to communicate with anyone on the Biden transition team and to alert the deputy surgeon general if anyone from the transition team contacts them.
Make no mistake: The Trump Administration’s efforts to prevent federal public health agencies and officials from immediately working with the Biden transition team, combined with the type of reckless messaging delivered by Atlas and other White House officials, is going to lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.
The exponential rise in COVID-19 cases over the past month has swamped many hospitals across the nation and threatens the capacity of our entire health care system. Hospitals in multiple states, particularly those in rural areas, have reported running out of hospital beds and exceeding intensive care unit capacity. Many hospitals are facing shortages of nurses and doctors as medical staff themselves contract COVID-19 and the hospitals struggle to find qualified replacements. In some cases, COVID-19 patients are being evacuated to hospitals hundreds of miles away from where they live. And in certain places, patients with other serious medical conditions, like heart disease and cancer, are having difficulty obtaining necessary medical care.
Tragically, this rapidly unfolding public health disaster could have been prevented if there had been a robust, aggressive and coordinated federal response to the pandemic. In distinctive contrast to Trump, Biden and the health experts on his transition team seem to understand this, and accordingly, they have already cast a seven-point federal plan to beat COVID-19.
Trump needs to stand aside, spend the waning days of his failed presidency playing golf and allow the presidential transition to proceed unimpeded. Further efforts to slow the transition process could mean more Americans will suffer and die unnecessarily. But of course, the soulless Trump never seemed to care about how many people suffered and died from COVID-19 under his watch.