/ Letters / Historic crisis leadership

Historic crisis leadership

May 19, 2020

To the Editor:

The United States is facing the greatest medical crisis in over 100 years. We were confronted by the coronavirus pandemic unprepared. While a handful of health officials had issued muted warnings over the last few decades, no government or health official at any level had sounded a clear alarm.

When the virus struck, our health care system strained to the breaking point. Critical reserve medical supplies didn’t exist. And frighteningly, we learned that our country had become very dependent on an adversarial foreign power, China, for critical medical supplies.

Monday morning quarterbacks, political opportunists and media sensationalist have jumped on this opportunity to advance their agendas. The facts be damned. Self-serving narratives were shouted from the rooftops.

One popular narrative is that President Trump responded poorly. He should have done more and he should have done it sooner.

But the facts support the conclusion that Trump has shown tremendous leadership from the onset of this crisis.

Clearly, Trump’s response has not been perfect. During the many hours he has communicated with the American people and press about combating the virus, he has occasionally made incorrect statements.

He was also overly optimistic initially, but was not alone. On Feb. 17, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that the risk of coronavirus infection in the U.S. is “miniscule,” according to USA Today. On Feb. 29, Fauci said, “No. Right now at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis. Right now, the risk is still low, but this could change.” As late as March 9, he said, “If you are a healthy young person, there is no reason if you want to go on a cruise ship, go on a cruise ship.”

Big name Democrat politicians were also dismissing the risk of the coronavirus into March. On Feb. 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi toured San Francisco’s Chinatown and said there's no reason tourists or locals should be staying away from the area because of coronavirus concerns. On March 5, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “I’m here on the subway to say to people you have nothing to fear, go about your lives …”

President Trump formed the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Jan. 29 with Vice President Pence as chair. A highly talented multi-disciplinary team was assembled. Through coordination with governors, mayors, and even individual hospitals, the administration worked to ensure medical supplies were being delivered efficiently and effectively. Pence has been praised by governors of both parties for his communication, coordination and effectiveness.

By the first two weeks of March, President Trump had: cut bureaucratic red tape and transferred responsibility to private labs and medical companies to get our testing response back on track, after the failure of the CDC and the FDA to produce effective testing; declared a National Public Health Emergency; ordered travel restrictions from China saving untold American lives; obtained approval of $2.5 billion in supplemental virus fight funds; secured commitments from top pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine; and blocked most travel from continental Europe.

Trump also directed the creation of an amazingly efficient public/private medical supply chain. Trump’s team sped up delivery of critical medical supplies, addressing a tragic failure of federal and state governments to stockpile these supplies, in anticipation of a major crisis like the coronavirus pandemic.

New medical supply factories were opened in weeks. General Motors delivered the first ventilator produced in a converted former Kokomo, Ind., auto plant, after only two weeks, on April 17. Honeywell opened a new N95 mask factory in Smithfield, Rhode Island on April 17 and a second in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 5.

While the medical battle was Trump’s primary focus, he aggressively dealt with the devastating economic impact of lost jobs. The Cares Act was signed on March 27 providing $2.2 trillion of stimulus benefits to U.S. taxpayers and businesses. A supplemental $484 billion was approved at the end of April.

On April 10, Trump announced the Opening Our Country Council focused on reopening our flat-lining economy. A three-phased reopening plan was announced on April 16. It detailed steps to guide state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Trump’s critics proclaim what he should have done weeks or months ago, while President Trump is making tough decisions in real-time. His ideas and leadership have been inspiring.

Mark L. Miller




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