TOTAL AUTHORITY is what President Donald Trump now claims in relaxing the social distancing and other safety measures in place and in pushing to reopen the United States for business on May 1, despite the statement of health officials that this is premature, and that the United States isn’t there yet.
Why? Trump wants and needs the U.S. economy to boom because he needs it for his re-election bid, never mind what the facts say. It is all about the numbers. His numbers. Not the number of coronavirus cases, not the death toll, not the wide-scale testing still needed to isolate those who are infected, not the scientific clinical trials needed for drugs to be approved by the FDA. It is all about his ratings.
As of press time Tuesday, April 14, the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States has recorded more than 594,207 with a death toll of more than 25,402.
Governors likewise rebuked Trump and said they would not follow him if he mandates that their states relax social distancing measures and open for business by May 1 because they are duty-bound to protect their constituents’ lives and safety.
Georgetown University Law Professor Neal K. Katyal rebuked Trump’s claim, writing in the New York Times, “Our Constitution was designed to reject such arrogation of power. Separation of powers and federalism aren’t fusty concepts designed to please rebellious aristocrats; they are the living embodiment of our founders’ desire to divide and check power — not vest “total” “authority” in one person, no matter how wise that person may be.”
What is paradoxical about Trump’s claim is that he had not been on board in implementing a nationwide social distancing and other safety measures, and said he would leave that to the governors in compliance with the Constitution.
This, after downplaying the threat of the pandemic, calling it a hoax, and not doing any concrete measures to mitigate the spread in February and early March despite warnings from experts since January.
California became the first state to implement statewide “stay at home” and “shelter in place” safety measures, followed by New York and other states, and not surprising to note that those states who voted for Trump did not get on board.
It was only after this that Trump supported the social distancing measures but has been pushing the business as usual in the U.S. in time for Easter, calling for people to flock to churches for mass, despite the upward trajectory of cases and deaths in the nation.
As the social distancing and other safety measures helped toward “flattening the curve” and mitigating the spread of the virus, Trump then started patting his back for his handling of this pandemic.
And yet, he again started criticizing governors for their overly restrictive social distancing measures, for allegedly overstating their needs for ventilators and other medical equipment — a proactive measure to prepare for the worst in order to save as many lives as possible. Social distancing has been working to save lives and prevent our health system from being overburdened which could lead to more cases, more hospitalization, more deaths.
Trump also criticized scientific models for inflating the threat of the virus, going back to his previous contention of downplaying the threat of the virus, without tying it to the success of social distancing efforts in mitigating the spread of the virus.
In an interview on CNN on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it”. Cuomo “And we would have a constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government, and that would go into the courts.
And that would be the worst possible thing he could do at this moment, would be to act dictatorial and to act in a partisan, divisive way.”
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a list of six benchmarks the state must meet before it can begin relaxing strict social distancing mandates:
• The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
• The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
• The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
• The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
• The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
• The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.
After denigrating journalists who question his assertion of “total authority,” following the backlash of his claims on Monday from governors, constitutional experts, and the American people, Trump retreated and changed the tune on Tuesday’s news briefing.
He said governors can seek his help when they are ready to open their economy, a power he need not give to them because the governors already have this authority.
AND THEN, he attacked a new bogeyman, blaming the World Health Organization to shift the focus of the discussion and deflect from the reason the virus has spread in America. Let us leave this issue for another day.
FIGHT, Americans fight! Be relentless. Do not give in to helplessness under the bullying tactic of this president. Speak up and speak out! Our lives depend on our voice!
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at email@example.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.