NEW YORK (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Janet Ekstract – With cases of coronavirus doubling every few days, deaths of people of all ages, millions of Americans out of work and a chaotic situation with a major shortage of medical supplies across the nation – CNN’s Jake Tapper asked an obvious question on Sunday’s show, State of The Union: “Mr. President, What is Your Plan?”
That’s the question that a number of leaders, medical officials and healthcare professionals nationwide have weighed in on and would like an answer to. A prominent voice in this pandemic is U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democratic Minority Leader who said the supply system is “catch as catch can” when it comes to states obtaining essential medical supplies. He said governors are being forced to call private companies to see how they can obtain those supplies. Schumer explained that he had spoken to President Trump about this situation two weeks ago and reiterated what many others have said: “The president needs to invoke the Defense Production Act.” Schumer emphasized: “We have to listen to the medical experts,” who he said many have ignored. The senator added: “If they say wear a mask, I’m wearing a mask. When Fauci recommends something we ought to do it.”
The question Tapper asked Schumer is what can the Senate and House of Representatives do to further persuade the president to actually impose the DPA on companies? Schumer said they passed a bill calling for 150 billion dollars for a Marshall Plan for the healthcare system, also calling for helping unemployed workers get their full salaries. Schumer added: “What I hear from the epicenter, I convey to the White House, sometimes they listen to us – sometimes they don’t but we’re going to keep at it because our constituencies depend on it.”
Meanwhile, in various CNN interviews, medical professionals and journalists provided their take on the situation which they commented is dire and a “collapse of leadership.” On Sunday, CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter interviewed three professionals who weighed in on what they view is actually happening. Radiologist and founder of the Facebook group Physician Side Gigs, Dr. Nisha Mehta told Stelter that hundreds of doctors and nurses on her page are “crying and screaming” about what’s happening on the frontline with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Mehta said there have been numerous deaths of physicians in the community and the current medical personnel have a fear of catching the virus, a fear of what may happen to their families. Mehta said: “It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN. She added many are saying they know they’ll be exposed without PPE but they feel they have a duty to their patients. She said: “It’s really frustrating that the one thing that could be supplied to us is not there.” Dr. Mehta submitted a petition to Congress on Saturday to enact an law that makes sure physicians are properly protected when they work – establishes a COVID-19 fund to make sure families are protected.
Another voice who offered his expertise on the pandemic is Gregg Gonsalves with the Yale Global Health Justice organization. Gonsalves echoed the sentiment about a lack of leadership: “It’s not a 9/11 failure, it’s much greater than that,” he said. Gonsalves said that America needs a Marshall Plan for health. He added that transparency is required: “We really need to know what’s going on and who is responsible for responses failing.” Gonsalves said that the deaths in this pandemic will surpass “most of the wars we’ve seen” and added “we know people who are getting sick and dying.” His conclusion is that there’s way too much misinformation coming from the president and asked the question: “Should we be amplifying misstatements of fact and outright lies?”
From the perspective of New York Staff Writer, Susan Glass, she likens Trump’s version of the situation to the “Pentagon lying about the Vietnam War.” Glass said: “I believe journalists like ourselves have an enormous responsibility to bear witness.” She added: “The collapse of leadership we’ve seen as actual lives at stake – it’s so breathtaking that he would offer inaccurate health information to the public.”
Another member of the media, Executive Editor at the Washington Post, Marty Baron commented: “I think the reporting on this story has been validated over many months now.” When asked whether the president failed in his leadership, Baron said: “This first notification of this came from China on January 3. The government failed all along the way, it did not pay attention to the seriousness of this pandemic.” Baron further stated: “He’s the leader of the country and everything stems from the person at the top and he was arguing it wasn’t going to affect the United States. Experts were telling him that this was going to be a very serious problem and that this was going to require mobilization.”
In actuality, the U.S. is in a conundrum because the Trump administration has rejected fully implementing the Defense Production Act (DPA). This would mean that the federal government would be more directly involved in the purchase and distribution of essential medical supplies that include ventilators, respirators, face masks and gowns which most states have a shortage of. In essence, this act requires the federal government to take responsibility for making sure states get what they need. Numerous governors and top health officials have urged President Trump to use his authority under this act which would require all companies to produce the required medical gear and equipment. The situation currently remains in free fall with each state competing with other states as well as the federal government to purchase supplies. As New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo said in subsequent press briefings: “The federal government needs to do its job.” Governor of Ilinois J.B. Pritzger described the competition for the purchase of medical supplies as “the wild, wild West.”
President Trump is viewed by an overwhelming number of governors as not viewing this pandemic as dire as it actually is. Trump, questioned in a recent White House briefing, whether governors actually need the amount of masks and ventilators they say they must have to prepare for additional coronavirus patients. Top medical personnel and officials have warned they desperately need ventilators, masks, gowns and other medical supplies to meet the growing number of patients. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said: “We source ventilators from the strategic national stockpile and from around the world.” He added that the current date he expects to run out of ventilators is April 9 – April 11, he expects to run out of hospital beds. He said getting ventilators is a problem: ”Should the apex hit, we will exceed our ventilator capacity at some point.” Pritzker commented: “We’re looking all over the world for ventilators.” He added: ”The president doesn’t understand the word ‘federal’ – individual states can’t possibly do what the federal government can do.” The governor commented: “The federal government is responsible for doing exactly that.” The governor made it clear all the information was available in January and February and said if the government had prepared earlier, the U.S. would not be in such a dire situation. Pritzker explained: “We would not have the problems we have today and frankly less people would have died. It was up to the federal government to begin with, to advise those governors to put in stay-at-home orders.” He added: “We don’t know when things will get back to normal but if the researchers can come up with a treatment to keep people out of hosptials and treat them – no one predicts now, that we’ll have that treatment even by September. If we have a vaccine that will help us to open everything back up.”
In response to the queries about ‘What is the President’s Plan?’ – Tapper spoke to Defense Secretary Mark Esper who said: “The department of defense has been all in and ahead of the curve in responding to the coronavirus.” Esper stated he’s deploying 1,100 additional doctors and nurses to New York City that will go to the Javits Center. He mentioned: “We have many ventilators deployed with our field hospitals, HHS has several thousand ventilators and they plan on delivering those, Esper said and added: “We’re prepared to ship N95 masks once they’re needed.” Despite what Esper said, there are massive warnings from medical personnel about the continual, dangerous shortage of ventilators, PPE, wrong deliveries and promised deliveries that never arrive.
The pandemic concern is ubiquitous and on Sunday, as CNN’s Fareed Zakharia learned from three prominent professionals – the Trump administration is way behind in the fight against coronavirus. Editor and Chief of the Economist Magazine, Zanny Minton Beddoes commented: “I think what is worrying is that we don’t have an exit strategy.” Meanwhile, Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times explained: “We have deliberately shut down a large part of the economy that can spread the disease – those loss of jobs are because of this “deliberately induced coma” – we worry a lot that there’s been a second wave because so many people are impoverished they will have no buying power.” Eurasia Group President Ian Bremer on restarting the economy said: ”China’s economy will be back to normal in a few weeks because they are on the supply side – but we have completely abdicated leadership internationally for our allies, that we’re not coordinating with, we really need to be paying attention to what Beijing is doing right now.” Krugman was asked, “What’s the danger if the economy starts up too early?” His reply was: “There’s a huge danger, we really need a period of extreme lockdown that we’ve really brought the pandemic to an end.” He added that major consensus from serious economists is to wait. Krugman who is also a distinguished professor at CUNY Graduate Center explained: ”We have the 1918 flu pandemic – the cities that did more social distancing and stayed with it did better economically. We need to provide disaster relief and aid to people without incomes.” He further stated: “If we open too soon, it’s a recipe for an even longer economic slump.” Krugman also emphasized that monthly economic data are completely out of date.” The major issue he said is: “We’re not prepared for something of this magnitude and we’re not prepared for something of this speed and that’s a big problem.”