In May 2018, the administration of President Donald Trump disbanded the National Security Council’s Pandemic Team. This concentration of expertise was never restored, and in its absence the president and his administration have made numerous mistakes.

Trump ignored pandemic briefings in January and February, brushing off concerns from advisors. He failed to initiate a national pandemic response, losing critical time for acquiring and distributing vital medical supplies. He withdrew U.S. funding from the World Health Organization, which provides essential public health and health care for the world’s most vulnerable populations. He announced his intention to disband the coronavirus task force on May 5; he restored it on May 6. He invoked his “absolute authority” to tell states when to end public health interventions while accepting no responsibility and providing no leadership for national cooperation, medical supplies, or compassion. He encouraged the (sometimes armed) anti-public health “freedom” protests against state governments attempting to limit the pandemic without adequate federal guidance, leadership, or assistance. He dodged responsibility for pandemic response by blaming the Chinese, the Obama administration, Democratic governors, and others. He Ignored and suppressed scientific expertise. He promoted the use of untested, unproven, inappropriate, and potentially dangerous medicines such as hydroxychloroquine. He suggested implausible interventions such as getting disinfectant (or sunshine) into the human body.

The president has framed this national emergency as a partisan issue; he has withheld or has threatened to withhold assistance and resources from states or cities on political grounds. Under Trump, the U.S. has emerged as No. 1 in the world in coronavirus cases, coronavirus deaths, and administrative chaos.

Of course, there is no single perfectly correct way to handle this complex public health and economic crisis. However, while rejecting and ignoring relevant expertise, the president has found perfectly incorrect ways.

Charles Gessert

Duluth