‘When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent,’ say editors of prestigious medical journal
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus illness COVID-19 moved above 212,000 on Thursday, as the editors of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine sharply criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.
In a highly unusual move, the editors published an editorial that called for the current government to be voted out of office.
“This crisis has produced a test of leadership,” said the editorial. “With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
The U.S. leads the world in number of cases at 7.6 million and by deaths at 211,834, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, far exceeding the numbers of countries with bigger and even more vulnerable populations, the journal’s editors wrote.
“The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000. Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly,” the editors wrote.
The U.S. “failed at almost every step,” the editorial continues. Despite ample warning, the country failed to implement adequate and effective testing or even provide the basic personal protective equipment to safeguard health-care workers and the general public. The U.S. lags countries such as Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, which do not have America’s biomedical infrastructure or manufacturing capacity, in terms of the number of tests performed per infected person.
The U.S. failed to institute quarantine and isolation measures on time and consistently, rules on social distancing remain loose and inconsistent, and restrictions were lifted too early and long before disease control had been achieved. Public messaging on face-mask wearing has been politicized, the journal lamented.
The nation’s key public health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have been politicized, too, or excluded from crucial decision making, greatly undermining trust in them, according to the journal.
“When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent,” the editorial concluded. “We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”
The comments come after Mike Pence and Kamala Harris clashed over the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis at Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate, with Harris labeling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
The U.S. counted 52,523 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and at least 994 people died, according to a New York Times tracker. The U.S. has averaged 45,644 new cases daily for the last week, up 9% form the average of two weeks ago.
Hospitalizations are rising in key electoral battleground states, according to the Washington Post, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa.