A new study by researchers at Columbia University estimates that between 130,000 and 210,000 deaths from coronavirus in the United States could have been avoided, placing much of the blame for those deaths on the “abject failure” of the Trump administration.
The range of those numbers, even from their lowest end, account for more than half of the reported deaths in the U.S. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 8.6 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus, with nearly 228,000 having died as a result of the virus so far.
The report’s lead author, Irwin Redlener, who is also the founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia, pulled no punches in expressing his personal views over who was responsible for those deaths, based on the report’s findings.
“We believe that this was a monumental, lethal screwup by an administration that didn’t want to deal with reality,” Redlener told The Daily Beast.
Researchers compared actions taken by the U.S. with those of six other countries — Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Canada and Australia — and noted that several factors led to the higher mortality rates in the U.S., including insufficient testing rates, delayed stay-at-home orders, a lack of a unified response by federal officials, and a failure to mandate masks and social distancing measures across the country.
“If the U.S. had followed Canadian policies and protocols, there might have only been 85,192 U.S. deaths — making more than 132,500 American deaths ‘avoidable,’” the study found. “If the U.S. response had mirrored that of Germany, the U.S. may have only had 38,457 deaths — leaving 179,260 avoidable deaths.”
Redlener did not apologize for his tone in blaming President Donald Trump.
“Usually academic publications are not so overtly political,” he said to The Daily Beast, “but this incredibly anti-science administration has caused an enormous tragedy in America. The fact that these deaths could have been avoided is a stunning realization.”
“The president himself became a superspreader,” Redlener added. “He has blood on his hands.”
The dismal response in the U.S. to COVID-19 is evident in other publications that were released this week as well. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), coronavirus is now the third-leading cause of death in the country, behind heart disease and cancer.
Coronavirus is not among the leading causes of deaths in many nations. In places such as Germany, Australia and Japan, the virus doesn’t even breach their top 10 causes of death.
KFF noted that Belgium is the only other country within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that has a higher rate of coronavirus deaths per capita than the U.S. But the high rate may be due to the way Belgium calculates COVID-19 deaths, as the European nation includes suspected COVID-19 deaths in its totals.
The Trump administration’s failures to manage the pandemic from its start — including the president’s own misleading and misinformative statements about the virus — have been well documented.
In spite of receiving more than a dozen President’s Daily Briefings on coronavirus in January and February, Trump downplayed the severity of the situation in February, telling Americans they had nothing to worry about. By the end of that month, the president was describing COVID-19 as a “new hoax” being used against him by his political opponents.
By March, Trump, facing pressure after coronavirus cases continued to rise, finally acknowledged the pandemic as a national emergency, and advised Americans to follow social distancing measures. But after states began implementing stay-at-home orders for their own residents, the president demanded they reopen their economies, perhaps fearing that an economic downturn due to coronavirus could hurt his electoral chances in November.
By mid-April, Trump was tweeting for citizens of several states to “LIBERATE” themselves against new regulations that were being implemented to quell the virus’s spread, going against his administration’s own guidelines on how to handle it.
The president has continued to downplay coronavirus even after contracting it himself earlier this month. He has errantly said that he is “immune” to the virus because he has already been infected, and wrongly compared death rates to the flu.
All of these actions contradict what Trump has acknowledged in private. In recorded interviews with veteran journalist Bob Woodward, the president admitted that the virus was more “deadly” than the flu. Trump also said he purposely downplayed the gravity of the situation, telling Woodward in March that he didn’t want to cause a panic.