Public health experts in the United States say President Donald Trump is downplaying science in his drive to reopen the US economy and risking lives by pushing governors to ease restrictions on public life.
“There is no question of what’s happening here, which is that the country is reopening too soon,” said Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor at George Washington University.
“There will be predictable consequences which are avoidable infections and preventable deaths,” Wen told Al Jazeera.
Governors in all 50 US states have begun to ease stay-at-home restrictions, even though four states are still seeing increases in COVID-19, and 21 states have yet to record substantial declines. Many others like New York are seeing steady drops in infections but are still suffering large numbers of sick and dying people.
The result of a premature loosening of restrictions, medical doctors fear, will be new outbreaks of the coronavirus, prolonging the pandemic in the world’s hardest-hit nation.
“The minute we start speeding all this up we get ahead of the science and the virus gets ahead of us,” said Boris Lushniak, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
“Our big fear factor – from a public health perspective is – if you move things too quickly, then the chances are quite high that you will regress and when you regress, you will regret having moved that quickly,” Lushniak told Al Jazeera.
The US CDC has seen its role minimised & become an ineffective & nominal adviser in the #COVID19 response. NEW Editorial “Reviving the US CDC” looks at how the agency become so ill-prepared to protect the public’s health https://t.co/A2Y4OWxlqB pic.twitter.com/Q5JTJVxzwt
— The Lancet (@TheLancet) May 15, 2020
Facing re-election in less than five months, President Trump and his allies in Congress, cheered on by conservative media, have been pushing for a rapid reopening of the US economy even if it means more deaths.
Speaking to an audience of workers at a medical supply distribution centre in Pennsylvania on Thursday, Trump said US doctors and nurses are “running into death just like soldiers run into bullets”.
“It’s incredible to see. It’s a beautiful thing to see. But I really call them ‘warriors’. We are all warriors. Everyone in our country is a warrior,” Trump said.
Pennsylvania is a state Trump likely needs to win again when Americans vote in November. The president pledged to get the US economy moving again by using federal financing to manufacture medical protective equipment and ventilators.
“I understand the president. He is a politician I won’t pass judgement on that. But I don’t agree with what he is doing at all,” said Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“As a leader, the administration needs to provide a whole lot more leadership than it has and I think that’s a fact…