My Turn: The coronavirus pandemic made worse by Trump’s ‘infodemic’

For the Monitor
Published: 4/2/2020 6:00:39 AM

Never have the consequences of an election seemed more dire than they do right now. Donald Trump has actively made the coronavirus outbreak worse: He’s downplayed the spread of the virus and proposed cuts to the CDC and other key global health programs that left the U.S. ill-prepared for a coronavirus outbreak; he has refused to provide the adequate medical supplies and testing kits that hospitals need; and he has been spreading deadly disinformation about the virus.

Despite Trump’s lagging response to the pandemic, which is threatening the lives of Granite Staters, Republicans in New Hampshire continue to support him and have even been parroting his disinformation. That needs to change now if they are serious about stopping the spread of this virus.

Trump was completely unprepared for a crisis of this magnitude, and as reports came in about the coronavirus spreading, Trump proposed cutting funding to Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and global health programs by tens of billions of dollars. During his term, he eliminated critical experts who would have been responsible for leading the U.S. response to deadly pandemics – including a CDC position in China meant to help us detect disease outbreaks – and the National Security Council’s director for medical and biodefense preparedness remains unfilled. And roughly two-thirds of Trump’s appointees who attended a pre-inauguration briefing on the possibility of a global pandemic are no longer serving in Trump’s chaotic administration. He went out of his way to weaken the foundation of our global health organizations that are designed to handle crises like this. As a result of Trump’s mismanagement, the United States has been playing catch-up while people in New Hampshire and across the country continue to get sick.

Trump has also consistently failed to deploy the full resources of the White House to mitigate the crisis, and hospitals, health professionals and schools continue to say they have not received proper guidance and assistance from the Trump administration, even as leaders like New Hampshire’s congressional delegation have pushed him for federal resources to support our state. Trump ignored early warnings about a looming medical supplies shortage and instead blamed governors, saying his administration isn’t responsible for helping states obtain medical supplies or testing.

Despite warnings from public health officials, Trump has also been proliferating false information about the severity of coronavirus. He repeatedly misled Americans by claiming it would “go away” in a few months. He promised response measures that he hasn’t followed through on or are still months away. He compared the coronavirus to the flu. And, he has continually lied about access to testing. This false information has profound implications in our ability to respond to these crises – and it enables Republicans to spread their own versions of Trump’s disinformation.

Unfortunately, New Hampshire Republicans like Chris Sununu, Donald Bolduc and Matt Mowers have been following Trump’s lead in spreading disinformation about the virus and downplaying what will be one of the deadliest pandemics of our lifetime.

Just two weeks ago Sununu downplayed the severity of the virus and compared it to the flu, saying, “Treat it as the flu, which it is.” But there are several key differences. COVID-19 is more contagious, has a higher mortality rate, and there is no treatment or vaccine. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, COVID-19 “is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.” For his part, Bolduc, a Republican Senate candidate, has repeatedly pushed a debunked conspiracy theory that China created the virus in a lab for population control, and to kill off elderly people. And Mowers, who attended the CPAC conference where several attendees were confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, refused to self-quarantine and instead attended several large GOP events in New Hampshire following CPAC – sending the wrong message to the public about what to do if you’re exposed. The answer is to stay at home.

As we fight the spread of COVID-19, we also need to fight the spread of disinformation that comes with it. The director-general of the World Health Organization emphasized this point, saying, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.”

It’s past time for Chris Sununu, Donald Bolduc and Matt Mowers to call out Trump’s negligent inaction and divisive disinformation about coronavirus – and to stop spreading dangerous disinformation themselves. Granite Staters not only deserve better, but we need better. Our lives depend on it.

(Rep. Gaby Grossman of Exeter represents Rockingham District 18 in the N.H. House of Representatives.)




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