In April, the United States Postal Service had a plan in place to send five reusable masks to every American home. It was a step that would have saved lives by the thousands, not just because it would have made masks immediately more available at a time when many were having difficulty finding them, but because it would have publicly established mask-wearing as an integral part of fighting COVID-19 and cut through conflicting messages. But that plan, which reached the stage of a draft announcement, was cancelled at the last minute.
The end of the plan to send masks to families came at the same time that Donald Trump decided to cancel the national testing strategy that he had rolled out to America on March 13. That plan, which was also expected to launch in April, was halted because the White House decided that it might save more lives in blue states than in red states … and Trump didn’t want that. According to a White House source, the belief was that COVID-19, “… was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.”
- There was a plan in place to provide national testing. Trump had already announced the basics of that plan and the details were circulating around the White House.
- There was a plan in place, proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services, to distribute masks for every American through the mail. However, “the White House nixed the plan.”
In the case of the testing plan at least, the express reason that it was cancelled was so that more people would die in blue states and it could be blamed on Democratic governors. Which is exactly what Donald Trump did on Wednesday.
At a Wednesday briefing, Trump executed on that April plan to allow more deaths in blue states, then blame blue state governors. “If you take the blue states out,” said Trump, “we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue state-managed.” In addition to the fact that this is an absolute lie (even if you only included the red states, the United States would still have the second-highest level of deaths in the world), it shows that exposure of Trump’s deceptions over COVID-19, and revelations of his intentional harm to Americans not only hasn’t generated an appropriate level of tar-and-feathers outrage, it hasn’t kept Trump from actually carrying on with his plan.
Donald Trump is someone who was confronted with a real-life version of the Trolley Problem, and asked “Is there a way I can get the trolley to hit more people?” So he could blame them for being hit.
Had Americans adopted mask-wearing wholesale back in April, there is very little doubt that the death toll at this point would be a small fraction of what it is today. As a study published in July found, “countries that had early mask usage experienced per-capita mortality several orders of magnitude less than countries that did not.”
Americans didn’t get testing, even though testing was available. Americans didn’t get masks, even though masks were ready to send. Those things didn’t happen through either accident or incompetence. They were conscious decisions made so that Trump could do exactly what he is doing right now: Point to blue states and blame the leadership there for deaths.
Restrictions on businesses initiated by governors as a response to the pandemic are not, as William Barr has claimed, the worst restriction on civil liberties since slavery. But the actions of Trump in purposely halting testing and mask distribution may truly be the most immoral actions since the holocaust.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.