Parents have questions. Do they send their children to school? If so, should the kids attend every day? Twice a week? On some other schedule? Will protection against COVID-19 be adequate? Will teachers, administrators, custodial and maintenance staff be safe? How will a mother or father make a living if schools are shut down and the kids are home?
The tangle of information from the governor and the president add to the parental confusion. On the date of West Virginia’s 100th coronavirus death, Gov. Jim Justice claimed the recovery rate to be 99.93% while Dr. Clay Marsh, Justice’s appointed COVID-19 czar, said it was 96.2%.
Most unfortunately, we find ourselves saddled with the abysmal leadership of a president whose response to the pandemic would need improvement just to become a disgrace.
During the last week of February, the president began applying his talent for lying to the pandemic. He said, “We’re very close to a vaccine,” which was preposterous. Then he announced, “It’s going to disappear” which was, and remains, a fantasy.
By March 7, with only 15 Americans dead and a chance to curb the disease yet within our grasp, the president let that opportunity slip away for no other reason than to feed the cravings of the conspiracy crowd. Thus, we were witnessing the coupling of an Olympian denial of reality with a squandered chance to act decisively.
Mr. Trump next discarded responsibility altogether. Governors, he said, weren’t doing enough to curb COVID-19. He added that the federal government couldn’t be “shipping clerks” for personal protective equipment. On March 26, with more than 1,200 dead, Trump described the government’s role to be mere “backups” to the states. He repeated that journey into finger-pointing a week later, as the death toll eclipsed 6,000.
The president’s hydroxychloroquine mania soon kicked in. He said COVID-19 was “like a flu.” It isn’t, as evidenced by the soaring death totals. By the end of April, with the number of COVID-19 deaths having passed 60,000, the president was asked to assess his response to the virus. “Spectacular,” he replied.
On May 11, as the death toll topped 80,000, and still wrapping himself in a cloak of unreality, he crowed, “We have met the moment and we have prevailed.” If you needed reasons to ask, “What is wrong with this man?” you now had a carload of them.
By the time of his Tulsa rally on June 20, death had sunk its fangs into more than 120,000 Americans. The president entertained his attendees, who eschewed masks and distancing, by saying, “I said to my people, ‘slow the testing down.’ ” The next day, his aids claimed he had been joking. Classy.
In July, during a carefree, children-be-damned moment, the president threatened to withhold federal funds from school districts that did not fully reopen. His secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, baselessly claimed that schools could reopen safely because children “don’t get or transmit the disease themselves.” The president echoed her inanity in early August when, with the opening of schools looming and the death count having reached 160,000, Facebook removed a clip of the president from a Fox News interview during which he had said that children are “almost immune from this disease.”
Donald Trump’s doings are not thoughtless. Rather, his actions may be traced to his calculated desire to reopen schools and the economy, in order to give the appearance of national normalcy, so that he may win reelection. As a man without a conscience, he is blithely willing to use children as guinea pigs in the service of his campaign.
Deaths have climbed to more than 180,000 and continue to rise. In mid-August, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a 21% increase in child cases, with more than 75,000 new children’s COVID infections in only two weeks, precisely as parents, teachers and administrators must decide how children will be educated and we all await better times.