By Sue Hagan
I’ll give credit to Gov. Parsons for this: he is persistent, no matter the cost or the futility. He and the GOP legislators in Jeff City recently reconfirmed they oppose expanding Medicaid to the working uninsured. This announcement came in the midst a new contagion spreading across the globe. You might think EVEN THEY would realize that making it difficult for people with flu-like symptoms to get medical treatment can only spread contagion—be that coronavirus or this year’s flu. If Missourians later this year vote for having Medicaid available to all citizens of this state, the GOP will do its best to find a way to prevent that from actually happening.
Of course, we do not know to what extent the coronavirus will spread in the USA but we do know Missouri is especially vulnerable, especially the 8th District with its high poverty rate and lack of insurance. Office visits to see a doctor may be out of reach. Several rural hospital have closed due to our failure to expand Medicaid. Many of our working poor get few if any sick days—so they go to work despite having flu-like symptoms. 60,000 Missouri kids lost their health coverage this past year through an administrative error our legislators are in no hurry to correct.
At a few campaign rallies, Trump called coronavirus a “hoax” which may be his way of saying it is an undeniable but inconvenient truth. A few days later he backpedaled and said the coughing, the wheezing, the hospitalizations and now the deaths were real but the alarm being raised about his handling of it was a “Democrat hoax”. That really didn’t clarify anything, especially when FOX News and Rush Limbaugh tried to protect the president’s image by putting out their own fake information.
FOX dutifully told its audience of Baby Boomers (those most at risk) they should worry more about the common flu. Rush Limbaugh told his audience coronavirus was overhyped and compared it to the common cold. A 2% mortality rate from the Coronavirus would be about 20 times higher than the mortality rate from the seasonal flu.
Here’s why Trump is getting so much blame for mishandling the pandemic: Obama had raised funding for preparing for a contagious disease by some 30% but incoming President Trump immediately began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency devoted to fighting global disease outbreaks. The CDC cuts grew to 80 percent over three years. As a result, getting out trained personnel, testing kits, masks, and information on safety procedures was critically delayed while coronavirus spread. Why was CDC cut? The GOP and Trump thought being prepared for a disease outbreak was sort of like sitting around the firehouse waiting for a fire. So when the fire started, the truck had flat tires, the water tank was empty, and firefighters need to be recruited.
Trump appointed his VP to be the point-person on fighting the Coronavirus with his main task seeming to be control over release of information. As coronavirus czar, Pence imposed a gag order to prevent scientific experts on the committee from speaking on their own, especially if the scientists were saying things that contradicted the President. There was of course no gag order on Trump. Just last week, he again claimed the nation is just 3 months away from having an effective vaccine. His scientists say that vaccine development, at best, will require a year or longer to develop and test. And like all vaccine research, it will depend on having a good grasp of evolutionary science. How will Pence, a creationist, explain that?
Topping the distortions, Trump has now blamed Obama for the coronavirus contagion! With a falling reputation, Trump claimed Obama had implemented a rule which hindered laboratories from developing tests for the coronavirus. But it wasn’t true. Experts on lab testing, including the chief policy officer for the Association of Public Health, say they know of no Obama-era rule hindering the administration from authorizing lab-developed tests in any emergency.
Instead of calming Americans, the Trump response has only heightened irrational fears, spread fake information and politicized what should be a united effort to combat a serious disease. Every presidential news conference is an opportunity to scapegoat someone else and a lost opportunity to demonstrate leadership.
38% of Americans say they will not buy Corona beer because of the Coronavirus–I wonder if they are also avoiding Mexican restaurants where the popular drink is sold. After all, spills happen! Already there is lots of price gouging and plenty of scams to take money out of the pockets of the naïve and the frightened. Ineffective face masks are being sold at triple cost and shortages of effective masks now exist for the health care providers who really need them. Disreputable businesses are promising they have plenty of vaccine available—just send money! Phone scammers call worried people claiming they work for the CDC, for Medicare, or some other health agency and try to get personal financial information released. Religious scammers are selling oils, prayer cloths, and healing ceremonies.
Trump wants us to trust his handling of this crisis. I’m for trusting the scientists, and they recommend lots of hand washing. A little less hand waving might also help.