The Trump administration's response to COVID-19 is neither timely nor adequate. As of Thursday, March 19, South Korean had tested 274,000 citizens for this virus; in the U.S., we had tested about 25,000. As a result, all American citizens, but especially our healthcare workers, will suffer unnecessarily.

Precious weeks and months were squandered with misinformation, outright lies and denial of reality by the president. This occurred in the face of urging to action by scientists, epidemiologists, practicing physicians, economists and others in the know. The president has clearly said he takes no responsibility for any of this. He continues to berate reporters for asking questions about concerns they are hearing from citizens… calling them “nasty” questions.

This pandemic is unlike anything the world has ever seen. The last health crisis that even approaches similarity was the flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Then, as now, the whole world was affected. It is estimated that a third of the world population was infected and that at least 50 million people died during that pandemic. Fortunately, to date, COVID-19 does not appear to be so deadly.

Thankfully, some governors and mayors in states with large metropolitan areas moved quickly to contain the spread. But even there the glaring shortages of test kits, personal protective clothing and masks for healthcare workers, and hospital beds have reduced the effectiveness of control and treatment measures. All of this verifies the fragility of a healthcare system which is going to be quickly overwhelmed. We need to fix that after we come out of this crisis.

Despite the very different times and circumstances, lessons can be learned about what worked and did not work well when Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama tried to lead the country through the 2007-2008 deep recession. Buying out big banks which were at the root of the problem did not work. Failure to get the money directly to the most financially vulnerable resulted in greater losses of homes, businesses and savings among middle- and low-income families than there needed to be. Getting good governance remedies right in crises is tough even with competent leadership, which we do not have currently. Right actions and policies can help us avoid making the same mistakes again.

Measures taken last week (March 16) are a start.

Americans are tough. Historically, we are at our best in a crisis. This is a crisis. We had a chance once again to show our mettle and our humanity. The vast majority of us are good and compassionate folks willing to help each other regardless of any perceived differences. This is borne out by the many stories of kindness and love that are being shared on social media and reported by other news outlets. Of course, there are always a few people so angry and fearful that they seek to take it out on others.

Americans can handle the truth even when it is not good news. We deserve no less. Give us clear directions. In return we can pledge to our local, state and federal elected officials that we will follow guidelines based on science and on observations of COVID-19 activity. Just as importantly, we can pledge to each other our care and compassion. COVID-19 will not go quickly. We will be sorely tested.

Together we can show the world, and ourselves, once again that America is strong and resilient.

Together we can do this. Be well and peace! 

Patricia Frey