NEJM Calls for Change in U.S. Leadership Over 'COVID-19 Failings'

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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, the editors of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine have taken an unprecedented political stance and called for a change in political leadership this country.

On Wednesday, the Journal published an editorial that castigated the Trump administration for failing to effectively lead the nation through and out of the pandemic. The editorial, titled “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” said the United States has “consistently behaved poorly” in its response to the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 7.5 million people in this country and led to the deaths of more than 210,000.

“The magnitude of this failure is astonishing… Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly,” the editors wrote. “When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

In September, President Donald Trump gave himself an “A+” in the handling of the pandemic.

“We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job. A phenomenal job,” Trump said during an interview on Fox News. "On the job itself, we take an A+, with the ventilators and now with the vaccines that are years ahead of schedule.”

During his first debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump touted his accomplishments handling the pandemic, pointing to his decision to restrict travel from China, the origin of the novel coronavirus. Days after the debate, Trump, who is well known for not wearing a mask in public, was diagnosed with COVID-19. He spent a weekend in the hospital and received cutting-edge treatments for the disease. He returned to the White House three days later and ripped off his mask in a defiant video.

The United States leads the world in the number of deaths from COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. The editors said this did not have to be the case and pointed to the responses made by other countries to shut down the virus’ spread. The NEJM editors chastised the nation’s testing efforts. Although the country has ramped up its testing capabilities, the journal editors said there has been a lack of emphasis on developing capacity, which means a delay in test results for many people, “rendering the results useless for disease control.”

The editorial also notes how the response to the virus has become highly politicized and places the blame on the shoulders of the Trump administration. The federal government did not take the reins of the response and left quarantine and isolation measures to the states, which meant these measures were inconsistent, the editors said. They noted that governors do not have the tools available to them that the federal government does. Those tools that are under control of the federal government were used as political cudgels.

“Our rules on social distancing have in many places been lackadaisical at best, with loosening of restrictions long before adequate disease control had been achieved. And in much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures. The government has appropriately invested heavily in vaccine development, but its rhetoric has politicized the development process and led to growing public distrust,” the editors wrote.

The NEJM editors also point to efforts from the administration that have undermined public trust and confidence in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These world-class institutes have been shunned and have been undercut by political operatives who attempted to spin news to the advantage of the White House, the editors said.

“Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment,” the editors wrote.

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