'Shameful': US virus deaths top 400K as Trump leaves office

'Shameful': US virus deaths top 400K as Trump leaves office

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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WASHINGTON, USA (AP) —As President Donald Trump entered the final year of his term last January, the US recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Not to worry, Trump insisted, his administration had the virus “totally under control”.

Now, in his final hours in office, after a year of presidential denials of reality and responsibility, the pandemic's US death toll has eclipsed 400,000. And the loss of lives is accelerating.

“This is just one step on an ominous path of fatalities,” said Dr Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and one of many public health experts who contend the Trump administration's handling of the crisis led to thousands of avoidable deaths.

“Everything about how it's been managed has been infused with incompetence and dishonesty, and we're paying a heavy price,” he said.

The 400,000-death toll, reported yesterday by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of New Orleans, Cleveland or Tampa, Florida. It's nearly equal to the number of American lives lost annually to strokes, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined.

With more than 4,000 deaths recorded on some recent days — the most since the pandemic began — the toll by week's end will probably surpass the number of Americans killed in World War II.

“We need to follow the science and the 400,000th death is shameful,” said Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, near Los Angeles. With its morgue full, the hospital has parked a refrigerated truck outside to hold the bodies of COVID-19 victims until funeral homes can retrieve them.

“It's so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided,” he said.

The US accounts for nearly one of every five virus deaths reported worldwide, far more than any other country despite its great wealth and medical resources.

The coronavirus would almost certainly have posed a grave crisis for any president given its rapid spread and power to kill, experts on public health and government said.

But Trump seemed to invest as much in battling public perceptions as he did in fighting the virus itself, repeatedly downplaying the threat and rejecting scientific expertise while fanning conflicts ignited by the outbreak.

As president he was singularly positioned to counsel Americans. Instead, he used his pulpit to spout theories — refuted by doctors — that taking unproven medicines or even injecting household disinfectant might save people from the virus.

The White House defended the administration this week.

“We grieve every single life lost to this pandemic, and thanks to the president's leadership, Operation Warp Speed has led to the development of multiple safe and effective vaccines in record time, something many said would never happen,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.


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