The President has blithely tweeted that ‘it will all work out well.’ Yet the steps he has taken have only weakened our capacity to respond.
by Joe Biden
The possibility of a pandemic is a challenge Donald Trump is unqualified to handle as president. I remember how Trump sought to stoke fear and stigma during the 2014 Ebola epidemic. He called President Barack Obama a “dope” and “incompetent” and railed against the evidence-based response our administration put in place — which quelled the crisis and saved hundreds of thousands of lives — in favor of reactionary travel bans that would only have made things worse. He advocated abandoning exposed and infected American citizens rather than bringing them home for treatment.
Trump’s demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge.
The outbreak of a new coronavirus, which has already infected more than 2,700 people and killed over 80 in China, will get worse before it gets better. Cases have been confirmed in a dozen countries, with at least five in the United States. There will likely be more.
Diseases don’t stop at borders or walls
Trump has blithely tweeted that “it will all work out well.” Yet the steps he has taken as president have only weakened our capacity to respond.
Trump has rolled back much of the progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. He proposed draconian cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for International Development — the very agencies we need to fight this outbreak and prevent future ones.
He dismissed the top White House official in charge of global health security anddismantled the entire team. And he has treated with utmost contempt institutions that facilitate international cooperation, thus undermining the global efforts that keep us safe from pandemics and biological attacks.
To be blunt, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies have left us unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.
Pandemic diseases are a prime example of why international cooperation is a requirement of leadership in 2020. Diseases do not stop at borders. They cannot be thwarted by building a wall. We cannot keep ourselves safe without helping to keep others safe as well and without enlisting the help of other nations in return. And here’s the truth — the United States must step forward to lead these efforts, because no other nation has the resources, the reach or the relationships to marshal an effective international response.
That’s how we broke the infection curve on Ebola. In September 2014, CDC projections warned that over 1 million people could be infected if we failed to act. By February 2015, thanks to the leadership of our administration, the number of new Ebola cases was fewer than 400. A few months later, the epidemic was essentially extinguished.
I will uphold science, not fiction or fear
We brought the world together behind a response that only the United States could mobilize — including dispatching our military on a limited mission to help build the urgent infrastructure necessary to coordinate a massive global public health response, deploying American disaster assistance response teams to Africa, unleashing the NIH to help spur the discovery of new treatments and vaccines, protecting our citizens from potential cases of Ebola in the USA, and harnessing civilian expertise from the CDC at home and abroad.
We acted over the chorus of uninformed objections from critics like Donald Trump, and more than 60 countries followed our lead, contributing over $2 billion, thousands of health professionals and personnel, and other critical resources like personal protective equipment. Just as important, we strengthened our focus on preparing for the next crisis.
That’s the kind of leadership a moment like this demands — a leadership Trump could never deliver.
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As president, I will reassert U.S. leadership in global health security. My policies will always uphold science, not fiction or fearmongering. I will ask Congress to beef up the Public Health Emergency Fund and give me the power to use the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to declare a disaster if an infectious disease threat merits it.
I will also renew funding — set to expire in May — for the nationwide network of hospitals that can isolate and treat people with infectious diseases, and fully fund the Global Health Security Agenda so the world is ready for the next outbreak. And I will rebuild public trust, make sure we have dedicated resources to help us respond to crises quickly, and better harness the capabilities of the private sector to protect the American people. Our national security requires nothing less.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBiden