So much as been said and written about Donald Trump’s lies, spins, and looseness with the facts that Trump already had a credibility gap before the coronavirus crisis.  Fewer will trust him now particularly since that lack of credibility has real-life consequences. There is a time when his words and actions hurt people because they do not know who to believe and in their confusion may react in ways that could harm themselves.  Such is the situation now as the coronavirus spreads worldwide. This is the time when trustworthy leadership is sorely needed to deal with the virus. Some may take Trump at his word of playing down the threat, calling any heightened awareness a Democratic party hoax,  and as a result, do not plan to take precautions. That gamble is theirs to take.

Few trusted Trump before the virus threat. Only a third of Americans found Trump honest and trustworthy, per a January 2020 Economist/YouGov Poll and a spring 2019 Gallup poll. Even a quarter of Trump voters and Republicans do not believe he is honest and trustworthy.  Trump has done nothing to make us feel more confident about the ability of his administration to look out after our welfare instead of his re-election welfare in the face of the coronavirus crisis. While he was visiting India and the world became aware of the new deadly strain of a virus Trump’s immediate words were not his concern for the suffering of anyone in the world, but for the impact on the US stock market. It plunged with fears of a worldwide economic slowdown and as I write this it is still a disaster for those who have IRAs or have retirement funds invested in it.  For Trump, it means damaging his main argument for re-election, economic gains and a comfortable future, what some voters want so badly that they excuse his behavior and his character flaws. He minimized the impact with the memorable words, “by April it will miraculously disappear”. Scientists just do not know. The miracle will be if few in America get sick and die from it in the meantime. What we do know it is very contagious and the most conservative estimate is that the death rate is ten times more than the normal flu. Contrary to Trump’s podium asserted claim that vaccination is being developed soon, “soon” was defined by experts as 12 to 18 months in the same press conference.

So far we have no idea how much of the virus is already present because we had no widespread testing program in place in the US even though the virus was known in December. The test kits immediately made available were faulty and turn around time for results took days. More improved versions will be available next week. Local health agencies were given permission and formula to develop their own.  In 2018 Trump destroyed our national preparedness to meet a pandemic emergency by defunding, destaffing the national security mechanism once in place to coordinate a quick response. He had also cut funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC )and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientific government-funded agencies charged with combatting pandemics. He muzzled those same experts by putting that great science denier Vice President  Mike Pence in charge of coordinating government statements. Trump wants us to trust his judgment? Pence had bungled the HIV scare as governor in his own state and promoted other anti-scientific based public policies. Trump requested from Congress $2 billion-plus to make up for 2018 cuts in preparedness, but neither the expert personnel are in place nor the money to fund the efforts which still has to go through administrative hoops no matter how much Congress appropriates.   Now we will only get the truth filtered for conformity to suit Trump’s political advantage. I will seek my advice from the World Health Organization instead of from the White House.

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