"I don’t take responsibility at all”
— President Trump, March 13, 2020
Nero fiddled and Trump tweeted. When the story of the COVID-19 response is written, one word will define it: incompetence. April 15 marks three months since the virus arrived in the United States and it is long past time for Utahns to hold Donald Trump accountable for his ineptitude. If ever there was a naked emperor, this one has taken the liberty of sending unsolicited nudes to each of us in the form of acts of daily misinformation.
Let’s take a virtual, appropriately distanced walk through our recent history:
On Dec. 31st, 2019, the Chinese government reports a cluster of pneumonia-like cases to the World Health Organization (WHO). Within a week, on Jan. 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns Americans about visiting Wuhan, China.
Just nine days later, on Jan. 15 the first case in the United States is confirmed in Washington state, the first case related to travel.
Jan. 22, President Trump gives his first widely shared comments on the virus, stating: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
By Jan. 31, 2020 the WHO declares the virus a “global health emergency” and reports over 11,000 cases worldwide. The night before, Trump gloats, “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment … we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you.”
Two weeks later, on Feb. 14, Trump gave the nation a Valentine’s Day gift, “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though.”
March 10, Trump tells Republican senators: “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it [COVID]. And it [COVID] will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
With his self-imposed Easter deadline behind us, we must acknowledge that Trump’s leadership is failing us. Incompetence cannot be acceptable when lives are on the line. We serve as the chairmen of the Glendale and Poplar Grove community councils. Glendale and Poplar Grove are vibrant, diverse, and welcoming neighborhoods on the southwest side of Salt Lake City. Our zip code, 84104, is among the hardest-hit areas in the state. We are mourning the loss of two of our neighbors at the Pine Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing facility and concerned about the health of all of our neighbors.
A crisis like this demands leadership. When our political leaders fail to rise to the challenge, it is incumbent on citizens to hold them accountable — especially when they do not take accountability themselves.
Donald Trump is, at best, is a reality TV star, the presidency his show. Like the best (or worst) of reality TV, this season is the viewers’ choice. He wasted precious time and minimized the crisis for his own gain, the impact of which is being felt by our most vulnerable neighbors.
Now, before we get attacked for promoting politics during a time of national crisis, let us remind you that this is what politics is for. Politics is about selecting the best leader for good times and more importantly, for crises. Trump has failed, time and again, to rise to the challenge. No remedy, aside from politics, exists at this point.
As leaders in neighborhoods suffering from the pain of the crisis, we implore you to take action to hold this president accountable by following the guidance of public health professionals, only sharing reliable, well-sourced information, demanding more of our elected leaders and exercising your right to vote in November.
Turner C. Bitton is chair of the Glendale Community Council, Salt Lake City.
Erik Lopez is chair of the Poplar Grove Community Council, Salt Lake City.