Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:
NEGLIGENCE WITH AMERICAN LIVES
(The New York Times, New York)
On Feb. 7, during a taped interview with Bob Woodward, President Trump acknowledged that the coronavirus could be transmitted through the air, that it was very dangerous and that it would be difficult to contain. "This is deadly stuff," he told the investigative journalist.
"You just breathe the air, and that's how it's passed," the president warned.
Despite his apparent understanding of the severity of the disease and its method of transmission, over the next month, in five cities around the country, Mr. Trump held large indoor rallies, which were attended by thousands of his supporters.
Mr. Trump spent weeks insisting in public that the coronavirus was no worse than a seasonal flu. It would "disappear" when the seasons changed, he promised in late February. "We're doing a great job," he said in early March.
Why lie to the American people? Why -- as the administration accuses the Chinese government of doing -- lie to the world about the severity of what was declared a pandemic only days later?
"I wanted to always play it down," Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
Mr. Trump and a great many of his supporters and political allies did play down the severity of the coronavirus and did criticize the public health measures deployed to prevent its spread. As a result, the coronavirus spread faster and sickened or killed more people in the United States than in any of its peer nations. If the United States had the same coronavirus fatality rate as Canada, more than 100,000 Americans could still be alive today.
The president has repeatedly tried to muzzle and sideline scientists and health officials who disagree with his sunny assessments, often replacing them with less qualified people willing to sing his praises.
Mr. Trump's lack of leadership almost certainly made the nation's suffering greater, its death toll higher and its economic costs more severe in the long term. When the president dithered on testing and contact tracing, when he failed to make or execute a clear and effective plan for securing personal protective equipment, when he repeatedly belittled and dismissed mask mandates and other social distancing edicts, Mr. Trump knew the virus was deadly and airborne. He knew that millions of people could get sick, and many would die.
Furthermore, Mr. Woodward's tapes make clear that members of the Trump administration failed to act -- even behind the scenes -- based on what they knew at the time.
Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have suffered grave illness -- often followed by a slow, hard recovery and, in some cases, permanent disability. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs, and millions are on the cusp of losing their homes. School systems and elder care networks are struggling to function. The economy is in tatters.
Imagine what this picture could look like today if the president had been honest with the American public on Feb. 7, calmly taken charge of the nation's response to the pandemic and did his best to protect them.