2020 is a gigantic mess. Millions are sick, soon almost 150,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19, our economy is unstable, small businesses and many individuals are between a rock and hard place, educational plans are in chaos and governmental leaders remain dysfunctional.
Science is the only bright spot. Multiple scientific organizations are progressing in their search for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Yet, President Trump and his spokespeople are diminishing science when convenient or otherwise treating it as a political football. Science, not politics, will bring an end to COVID-19.
Trump’s insistence on getting kids back to school exemplifies this. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said, “When he (Trump) says open, he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.”
Read that statement again. “The science should not stand in the way of this.” Yes, it should. Science has provided ways to prevent polio, smallpox, measles, and better manage cancer, heart disease and more. Ethical and accurate science lets people live longer and better lives.
Most parents would be thrilled to have their children return to classrooms full time for academics and social interactions. Yet, most parents understand science; they will err on the side of caution keeping their children home until convinced that classrooms will not magnify the coronavirus spread.
Trump’s anti-science politics go beyond schools. Last week the Trump administration decided to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the non-political scientific agency that traditionally collects and disseminates health data and, instead, have COVID-19 information sent only to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), whose database is not open to the public. They also considered having the National Guard collect hospital data to report to HHS.
The anti-science factions are even targeting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, who has served both presidents Bush and Clinton and Obama. Trump appears unhappy because the majority of Americans rightly believe qualified scientists’ suggestions over those of the president.
Twitter hashtags like #fireFauchi have appeared, and Trump is reported to have retweeted one. Last week, Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade advisor, wrote an op-ed in USA Today that said Fauci was “wrong about everything.” No mention of Clorox or Lysol there.
Despite Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans advocating for additional federal monies for coronavirus testing, tracing and CDC support, President Trump actively opposes it.
This past weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight the novel coronavirus, with growing evidence that facial coverings help prevents transmission — even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others.” It’s pathetic that Trump made it his political stance to strongly discourage masks until just this week.
Scientists are neither perfect nor miracle workers, but our nation will be much healthier if we follow the advice of qualified scientists rather than politicians. Our economy and schools will not fully open until Americans no longer fear that close social interactions can sicken or kill them. Science, not politics, is needed to overcome COVID-19.