South Korea had 11,110 cases of coronavirus and 263 deaths as of May 20. That is a mortality rate of 2.3 percent of identified infections, and an overall infection rate of two one-hundredths of one percent of the total population. In contrast, as of today, the United States has over 1.5 million reported cases and nearly 92,000 deaths.
Americans are 21 times more likely to be infected with coronavirus and 60 times more likely to die from it than South Koreans. President Trump’s lazy, self-interested and incompetent leadership is responsible for America’s failure to contain the virus and limit its economic impact.
Both the United States and South Korea reported their first case of coronavirus on Jan. 20. The United States ban on travel from China went into effect on Feb. 2. By Feb. 13, South Korea had instituted health screenings for travelers from any country with reported outbreaks of coronavirus.
On that day, the U.S. Embassy in South Korea issued a health and travel alert that travelers to Korea should anticipate health screenings upon arrival. The alert provided a number for a Korean government hotline so anyone developing symptoms while in Korea could be directed to an appropriate facility for testing and treatment. By March 23, South Korea had tested nearly 7,000 people per million of total population in accordance with a national strategy to identify, contact trace, and contain the virus.
After banning travel from China alone, President Trump wasted six weeks, issuing a series of inaccurate and self-serving statements that reflected profound ignorance of the virus’ severity and spread. He rated his administration’s response a success on Feb. 26: “When you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
As late as March 9, the president said that the flu was more dangerous than coronavirus. The United States did not implement broader travel restrictions from other countries with outbreaks, or health screenings at airports, until the week of March 13. Containment and contract tracing were largely left to individual jurisdictions. By March 23, we had tested just over a thousand people per million of population, in a largely disjointed effort.
The daily intelligence briefings prepared for the president in January and February contained numerous warnings about the coronavirus. Indeed, given that the Center for Disease Control issued a public notice to hospitals on Jan. 8, it is virtually impossible that the president was not informed before that time, probably as early as late December.
But the president is known for not reading his intelligence report or even listening to the daily briefings. We see him getting angry at people who tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, and unleashing childish twitter tantrums on anyone who dares criticize him.
Trump’s duty is to apply the resources of the United States to accomplish the goals enumerated in the Constitution: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
He did not cause the coronavirus, but his lazy, incompetent and negligent leadership in response to the virus is one hundred percent responsible for the many unnecessary illnesses, deaths and economic consequences we have experienced in the past eight weeks.
His dereliction of duty in response to this crisis is nothing short of criminal. Lock him up!
Stephen Tryon, Salt Lake City, is a retired soldier, former Senate fellow, businessman, author and was the Democratic candidate in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District in 2016.