In what is being seen as an unprecedented move, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has published a rare editorial suggesting the Trump administration be voted out from the office for turning a crisis into a tragedy.
The article, reportedly written back in August, outlines how the current US government, headed by Trump (who has recently tested positive for COVID-19), is ‘dangerously incompetent’ in handling a public crisis of this magnitude.
“We rarely publish editorials signed by all the editors,” editor-in-chief of the medical journal Dr. Eric Rubin told CNN who is also an author of the new editorial.
The US is by far the world’s worst-hit nations from the pandemic, that started in China and wreaked much greater havoc in the West, mostly in the US.
With more than 7.5 million confirmed cases and growing, the US has the world’s most number of fatal cases as well, at over 200,000 deaths in just 9-10 months.
Public health experts blame the Trump government for its botched response to the pandemic which has been fraught with indifference, negligence, delays, shortages, and confusion since March.
Test to the leadership
“This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy,” editors write in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
The editorial does not point out anyone US political candidate but certainly scathes the Trump administration in obvious narrative using the pronoun ‘we’ while highlighting Trump’s failed efforts.
“Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States, we have consistently behaved poorly,” the editorial writes.
The editors pointed out, how nations like Singapore and South Korea, who have far more exchange with China kept the virus under control by implementing strict contact tracing, quarantine, and intensive testing in the early phases. “We know we could have done better (…),” it says.
CNN noted, the New England Journal of Medicine, which was first published in 1812, so far had published four editorials collectively signed by all the editors in the recent past.
The first time such a post was put up was on 2014 about contraception; an obituary in the same year for a former Editor-In Chief; another editorial that year about standard-of-care study; and the last one on 2019 about abortion.
Why the US failed?
“Why has the United States handled this pandemic so badly?” the editorial asks, answering a collection of factors that led to the devastating after-effects.
It said the US was incapable of testing, the frontline workers and the general public were bereft of the most basic personal protective equipment, and continued to be ‘way behind the testing curve.”
“While the absolute numbers of tests have increased substantially, the more useful metric is the number of tests performed per infected person, a rate that puts us far down the international list, below such places as Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia, countries that cannot boast the biomedical infrastructure or the manufacturing capacity that we have.”
The editorial also pointed out how “the federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states.”
Elaborating, it said:
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which was deemed as the world’s leading disease response organization has been ‘eviscerated’ and suffered ‘dramatic testing and policy failures;’
The Food and Drug Administration has been ‘shamefully’ politicized from apparently responding to administrative pressure rather than scientific evidence;
And the National Institutes of Health which has previously played a vital role in vaccine development was excluded from crucial government decision making, the journal pointed out.
“Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government, causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.”
The editorial piece noted “anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences,” giving a passive attack on the Trump administration’s apparent escape from the devastating consequences of their failed response which has killed more lives in the US than any other event since the World War II.
“Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment,” the editors wrote, giving an implicit hint of thinking twice before voting Trump to power again.
“(…) truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent.”
Facts are not opinions
From championing anti-social-distancing to refuting the need of wearing a mask in public, Trump has done that all. Goes without saying, the US president did not fear from politicizing scientific response on handling a pandemic.
Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine told CNN in an interview, that the reason they don’t publish articles on elections is that they are not a political journal and they don’t want to be.
“But the issue here is around the fact, not around the opinion,” Dr. Eric Rubin said referring to the numerous times Trump ruffled facts with opinions regarding scientific protocols designed to save lives and prevent new infections.
“For example, masks work. Social distancing works. Quarantine and isolation work. They’re not opinions. Deciding not to use them is maybe a political decision but trying to suggest that they’re not real is imaginary and dangerous,” he said.
New England Journal of Medicine is not the only one to take a political side ahead of the vital November 3rd US presidential elections, made more crucial because of the pandemic.
This year, Scientific American announced it will endorse Trump’s opponent Joe Biden, marking the first time for the 175-years-old publication endorsing a US presidential candidate.