Last March, I thought my senior year of high school would surely end in-person. Then, I thought if we kept quarantining, I’d have a summer. I was sure this semester would start normally. I doubt I was alone in this mentality, which shows how good we are at lying to ourselves. Part of the issue is that this virus won’t go away without a vaccine. However, the US is clearly failing to handle this pandemic—we have only 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of its COVID-19 deaths. Why is this?
The leaders of several other countries have provided more stable and effective leadership during this time. There are various reasons for this, but it’s my opinion that many of the historic failures of President Donald Trump’s administration have fed directly into our country’s lack of success in handling the COVID-19 crisis.
Obviously, no one was ready for the virus; it’s something that none of us have experienced in our lifetimes. However, Trump’s 2018 disbanding of the Pandemic Response Team was the perfect way to set the stage for the current state of things, and it relates back to the trend of the Trump administration failing to fund necessary services like the United States Postal Service.
Other issues with the current administration also render the unfinished roller coaster that is our new cases curve very unsurprising. The trend of blatantly denying scientific research to further political aims is another perfect example of Trump’s inept handling of COVID-19. Of course the president, whose response to a government climate change report was “I don’t believe it,” would encourage the country to look past the evidence about how serious of a situation this is.
It’s possible that Trump believes acting like he’s the main information source instead of public health officials and pretending that we’ve already conquered the virus at the Republican National Convention may help him achieve his goal of reelection.
However, the desire to be reelected doesn’t justify the Trump administration’s actions. Trump’s inadequacy can be seen in his valuing property and business over human life; he favors reopening America for economic reasons at the expense of providing relief services to the people who are struggling.
Simultaneous to his prioritization of the economy over the people who make up the economy, Trump’s responses to recent protests against police brutality have garnered well-deserved criticism. Trump has recommended that cities disperse crowds who are protesting against racism with tear gas and rubber bullets when property gets damaged, instead of listening to these protesters’ complaints.
If the failure to manage the current crisis is a symptom of the larger problems within the Trump administration, then nothing can change until after this semester at St. Olaf ends in November—and it may not change at all. It also seems likely that the COVID-19 crisis is going to get worse when the weather cools down and we see the full effects of schools reopening.
I’ve spent enough hours on Instagram over the past few weeks to have lost most of my optimism when it comes to my fellow college students’ abilities to take the virus seriously. However, this really is on us. The only way we can slow the spread of COVID-19 is to be responsible ourselves, pressure our local governments to listen to health officials and vote in November.
Charlotte is from Boulder, CO.