The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating throughout the Southern and Midwestern states where Republican governors rushed to reopen local economies at the urging of President Donald Trump.
It was a catastrophic blunder.
“When this is all done, the governors who did all this, enabling the spread of the disease, doubling down when the consequences became apparent, need to be held accountable, People died because of their recklessness. Mistakes are one thing, this is far more and far worse,” tweeted Norm Orenstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Per-capita case/death rates are a factor. But the point is some states did too little until the pandemic hit crisis levels. Other states took aggressive steps, but they were hit early on and overwhelmed during the early days of the pandemic when info was limited.
If COVID-19 is a war, these are the federal, state and media war criminals who have plunged the nation deeper into the crisis through incompetence, malfeasance or reckless disregard of all scientific evidence.
President Donald Trump
Trump’s record of malfeasance and incompetence is almost too lengthy to recite.
But it began when the nation was caught flat-footed by the virus. The Trump administration failed to act for nearly three months after the first cases surfaced in Washington state.
He was blatantly putting his re-election above the health and welfare of the nation.
“CDC and my administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus… I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine,” he Tweeted in February.
Trump not only failed to launch an immediate federal response to the virus, he abruptly changed course in late March. He apparently picked up a refrain from a Fox News talking head and shifted focus to reopening the economy.
He began badgering and threatening state and local officials, and many Republican governors fell into lock-step.
Trump attacked Democratic governors for trying to contain the virus, discouraged social distancing and turned mask-wearing into a political football.
“[He] quite intentionally created an atmosphere in which loud refusal to take the measures that we know reduce the spread of infection is how you prove you’re a loyal Republican,” according to The Washington Post.
It was the beginning of a catastrophic slide that saw the virus engulf 27 states, mostly Republican-led in the Midwest and South.
Well over 24.7 million Americans have been infected and nearly 400,000 have died nationwide. Yet, the “Trump administration is trying to convince us not only that the pandemic is all but behind us, but also that its spectacularly incompetent response has been a great triumph,” The Post noted.
Vice President Mike Pence
As head of the president’s taskforce on the pandemic, Pence had an opportunity to provide real leadership.
Instead, he has been an echo-chamber beyond all reason for all of Trump’s most outlandish statements, misrepresentations and lies about the pandemic.
On a day when the nation had just hit a single-day record for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and states were rolling back ill-advised openings, Pence was caught up in Trump’s alternate reality.
He had the audacity to tell the nation that things were going well.
“Leaving out critical information,” CNN reported, Pence delivered a more polished version of the upbeat, all-is-well dishonesty that is a hallmark of President Donald Trump’s fierce propaganda campaign to save his re-election at all costs.
“Despite what you heard, we are in the middle of a public health disaster,” said CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on air after the briefing.
Time has borne out those claims. Today, the nation is on its way to 500,000 deaths.
Pence also claimed “all 50 states” are “opening up safely and responsibly,” despite rising infections in about 30 states which have not reached serious proportions.
In fact, several states had paused or reversed course in the face of surging cases to new highs in mostly Republican states, according to The New York Times.
As one report put it: “Describing 750 Americans dying each and every day as good news is simply monstrous.”
What’s more monstrous is that number is now up to 4,000 deaths per day.
Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow
“The president is right,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow confidently proclaimed on Fox News in February.
“The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re going to have to make some difficult trade-offs” to reopen the economy.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Kudlow insisted in late February that the nation had “contained” the virus “pretty close to airtight,” before being forced in May to walk-back his statement with another false statement.
The virus “spread exponentially in ways that virtually no one could have predicted,” he claimed.
Of course, the dangers of a pandemic were well-known, and scientists as well as the Bush and Obama administrations had been warning about the threat of a rogue virus for nearly two decades.
In another misleading statement, Kudlow claimed in June the coronavirus pandemic was like a hurricane– devastating but finite that wouldn’t leave a lasting economic mark.
When Trump began to push to reopen the economy, Kudlow fell into line arguing the government needed to stop providing a $600-a-week boost in unemployment benefits to force people back to work.
He trumpeted the fiction that people would refuse to go back to work as long as they were capable of living off of unemployment insurance.
Kudlow, in June, also dismissed reports of a surge in cases even as 29 states reported an increase in the seven-day average of new confirmed cases in such Republican-led states as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas and South Carolina.
“There is no second wave coming,” he told CNBC. “I really think it’s a pretty good situation.”
Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner has been leading the president’s chorus of misleading claims.
In April, he caused an uproar when he called the administration’s response to the pandemic a “great success story.”
On that day, the nation’s official death toll surpassed 60,000 and has skyrocketed since then with no end in sight.
It’s now predicted to eclipse 500,000 deaths before summer.
Yet Kushner proclaimed: “We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed,” he told Fox News.
He also predicted the country would be “rocking” again by July 2020.
Kushner’s coronavirus response team has been like the Keystone Kops because of its inexperienced volunteer staff.
The president’s son-in-law produced a plan for an aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that was summarily shelved by the White House in favor of a “shambolic 50-state response,” according to Vanity Fair.
The White House’s failure to coordinate federal response to get personal protective equipment where it’s needed, resulting in needless deaths, can be laid directly at his feet.
The irony is that, after assembling the team that came up with an aggressive and ambitious national testing plan, Kushner then appears to have decided, for reasons that remain murky, to scrap its proposal,” according to an expose by Vanity Fair magazine.
It’s largely because of him that governors and mayors were forced to scramble for resources to fight the epidemic, in some cases bidding against each other for vital equipment like masks, ventilators and other personal protection equipment.
In one brazen statement of contempt, Kushner declared at one meeting: “The federal government is not going to lead this response. It’s up to the states to figure out what they want to do.”
“Free markets will solve this,” Kushner declared. “That is not the role of government.”
In April, as the first wave was gaining momentum Kushner openly disputed health experts on the need for more testing.
“I’m very confident that we have all the testing we need to start opening the country,” Kushner told Fox News. He even claimed governors had excess testing capacity.
Dr. Scott Atlas, Presidential Advisor
Dr. Scott Atlas quickly earned a reputation as Trump’s anti-lockdown coronavirus advisor.
He joined the White House coronavirus task force in August in a temporary role after Trump saw him on Fox News.
He resigned in December. He said in a resignation letter his “advice was always focused on minimizing all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and the poor.”
But during his tenure he was reportedly a chief advocated of letting the nation develop “herd immunity,” a strategy many experts questioned, because it would have sent the death toll skyrocketing.
Despite his influence, he did not have a specialty in either infectious diseases or public health.
In October, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was “sitting” on $9 billion earmarked for COVID-19 testing because Atlas was opposed to expanding the testing regime.
Trump had repeatedly falsely claimed that the U.S. COVID rate was so high because of an aggressive testing campaign. Atlas tried to back him up.
In September, more than 100 of Atlas’ former colleagues at Stanford Medical School signed a letter warning that his “opinions bucked established science.” Even Bill Gates said he was espousing “crackpot” theories.
Atlas also openly clashed with the nation’s leading epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other leading health experts.
In mid-November, Atlas crossed a line when he tweeted that the citizens of Michigan should “rise up” against new coronavirus restrictions in the state. He later walked back the comment.
In addition to opposing lockdowns, he also decried the use of masks and insisted they were ineffective. Scientific studies have proven otherwise.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Under Trump disciple Ron DeSantis, Florida exceeds the entire European Union in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Today, the death toll stands at 24,577 Floridians, out of 1.6 million confirmed cases, while the state is wide open.
The Republican governor, who once haughtily bragged that his state had defeated the pandemic, is still in denial.
More than ever, Florida needs decisive, resolute guidance to get through this storm, The Orlando Sentinel newspaper editorialized.
“Instead, Ron DeSantis continues to muddle and spin his way through. For every good move, there have been too many missteps.”
Desantis, whom some Florida wags have taken to calling Gov. DeathSentence, continues his killing spree.
He signed an executive order that banned cities and counties from enforcing mask mandates. Bars and restaurants are open, even though Florida is a COVID-19 hotspot.
As the presidential campaign heated up, DeSantis and other Republicans cast doubt on the state’s official COVID-19 death count, second guessed doctors and echoed Trump’s campaign messaging that the toll wasn’t as bad as it looked, according to the Sun Sentinel newspaper.
The Florida Department of Health’s county-level spokespeople were ordered in September to stop issuing public statements about COVID-19 until after the Nov. 3 election, the newspaper found.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump acolyte has consistently played down the seriousness of the pandemic.
Although South Dakota managed to avoid the full brunt of the pandemic when it first swept states like New York and California, Noem’s mishandling of the virus has changed the pandemic calculus.
Today, South Dakota has the nation’s highest positivity rate. The seven-day positivity rate is at nearly 60 percent. according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.
Noem’s neglect has caused South Dakota to average 1,400 new coronavirus cases a day, amid a population of less than one million. On a per-capita basis, it’s the second highest average of new cases in the country.
More people are hospitalized per capita than in any other state, according to Tracking Project.
While South Dakota’s COVID-19 rate soared, she showed an incredible naivete about the impact on state residents.
In an op-ed column she defended her mostly hands-off approach to the virus. She never issued a stay-at-home order, for example — while also arguing that there is no need for a mask mandate at this point.
Critics have accused Noem of playing politics with the virus in an effort to curry favor with the ex-president. She’s reportedly angling for a potential spot on the national ticket in four years.
Noem’s actions in regard to the virus have been downright criminal.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum
Gov. Doug Burgum, has been one of the nation’s leading mask mandate deniers.
He could get way with it when the state appeared to have dodged the worst of the pandemic. But it was only a matter of time before state residents started getting mowed down.
Per capita, North Dakota has the most new coronavirus cases and deaths over the past seven days of any US state, and is second in new hospitalizations only to South Dakota.
Needless to say, the state’s hospital system was quickly overwhelmed. Burgum was forced to ask infected health care workers to continue working in hospital COVID units as long as they are asymptomatic.
With the virus running rampant, Burgum finally issued public health rules requiring residents to wear masks indoor and limit indoor gatherings.
“Right now, the data demands a higher level of mitigation efforts to reverse these dangerous trends, to slow the spread of this virus and to avoid the need for economic shutdowns,” Burgum said in a video message.
But the governor has exempted religious services from his mask mandate, even though they are a leading source of several major outbreaks.
North Dakota’s situation is a clear case of too little to late. But failing to react to the virus immediately, Burgum needlessly put state residents at risk.
Officials have confirmed 1,312 fatalities, the fourth highest per capita at about 172 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the tracking project.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves was initially spared from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as states like New York, New Jersey and California were hit hard.
But his state quickly vaulted to the top of the list of confirmed Covid-19 cases on a per capita basis, largely because of his mishandling of the pandemic.
Reeves directly countered may localities that were taking steps to curb the virus and declared a broad range of businesses and religious organizations exempt from restrictions.
He was forced to backtrack but reversed himself again causing widespread confusion about the state’s policy. Along the way he turned the state’s response into a political football, swearing Mississippi would never become China or North Korea.
As cases and death swelled in the state, he’s continued to take tepid steps. To date, the state has racked up 5,638 COVID-19 deaths and 257,000 cases.
Mississippi led all states for new cases of the coronavirus per capita, per day, before falling to seventh as COVID-19 cases surge elsewhere.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican and strong Trump supporter, resisted mask mandates and shutdowns for months while the coronavirus spread through the state.
She flaunted dire warnings from the White House coronavirus task force to institute a mask mandate and attended a Trump rally without a mask, sending the wrong signal to her constituents.
Now, Iowa is behind only the Dakotas in its measure of new coronavirus cases when adjusted for population.
It also has the fourth-highest number of people hospitalized per capita. Its seven-day positivity rate is more than 50%, behind just South Dakota and Wyoming.
The dire situation finally convinced Reynolds to imposed a new health order requiring masks indoors and further limiting indoor gatherings to 15 people.
She said hospitals have been pushed to the brink by the spread of the virus, and she accused many Iowans of becoming “complacent” about the need to flatten the curve.
“That doesn’t mean that these changes will be easy or popular, but they’re necessary if we want to keep our businesses open, our kids in school and our health care systems stable,” she said.
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott
If the virus presented a leadership test, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott is failing in spades, according to The Texas Tribune.
The state’s metrics have been getting worse for weeks as Abbott resisted taking steps and sent mixed messages on how to deal with the virus.
As a result more than 3,000 Texans have died and hospitals are rapidly reaching capacity and beginning to get overwhelmed.
Abbott got behind the eight ball after he followed the administration’s advice to open the state early, hoping to lift the economy.
But the virus’s spread has largely negated any gain. Unemployment remains in double digits.
Even by the metrics Abbott has said he is focused on — the percentage of COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization, and the share of tests coming back positive — Texas is headed in an alarming direction, according to the newspaper.
Like many southern, rural states, Texas was hit late by the virus. Now it’s considered a national hotspot.
When cases started climbing in June, Abbott shut down bars and rolled back restaurant capacity and announced a statewide mask mandate. But he immediately began backsliding after that.
In November, hospitalizations for COVID-19 was on the upswing , and the positivity rate exceeded 10 percent.
The state’s posture toward the pandemic is frequently compared to Florida’s, where lax action early on has triggered a surge cases.
In the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, when President Trump was obfuscating and misleading the nation about the pandemic, Fox News was his echo chamber.
While this story focuses on individuals, Fox News was a virtual COVID-19 criminal enterprise. Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity stand out, but other talking heads were just as culpable.
Fox Business News host Lou Dobbs, Fox Five’s Jesse Watters, Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perrino and Jeanine Pirro parroted Trump’s outrageous claims about the disease. Add Geraldo Rivera and Tomi Lahren as well.
As late as this past December, Carlson declared the pandemic a “global fraud” perpetrated by China and exploited by powerful elites.
But it was their messaging early in the pandemic that is the most damning.
Trump and right-wing Fox News talking heads went absurdly overboard dismissing the danger of COVID-19, delaying the nation’s response to the pandemic for weeks and putting the lives of countless Americans at risk.
Their comments were clearly motivated–and likely coordinated–to prop up the president’s misstatements and to attack politically what Hannity frequently refers to as the “media mob” and Dobbs labels the “national leftwing media.”
Hannity is memorable for his now infamous “Chicken Little” commentary:
“Tonight, I can absolutely report the sky is absolutely falling; we are all doomed; the end is near; the Apocalypse is imminent and you’re all going to die. Or, at least that’s what the media mob would like you to think,” he sneered.
“The far more deadly, the far more lethal threat right now is not the coronavirus, it’s the ordinary old flu,” said Rivera on Feb. 28. “People are dying right now… nobody has died yet from the coronavirus in the United States as far as we know.”
Pirro was emphatic on her Mar. 7 broadcast. “It’s a virus, like the flu,” she asserted. “All the talk about coronavirus being so much more deadly doesn’t reflect reality.”
Watters, American Conservative Union lobbyist Matt Schlapp, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Fox talking head Ainsley Earhardt all sounded the same refrain–the virus was no more deadly than the common flu, and harder to contract.
Check out the video below: