Dear President Donald Trump,
You have continuously touted your administration’s response to the pandemic. In an ABC News town hall, you claimed to have no regrets. In fact, you have gone as far as to say that you rate your administration’s pandemic response a 10 out of 10. It seems that a “thank you” is in order from the United States’ college students for this great COVID-19 response you implemented.
Thanks to your downplaying the virus’s lethality and danger, Americans who trust you have refused to live in fear of the virus, breaking social distancing guidelines and contributing to the spread of the virus. While you were taped privately acknowledging that the virus is “deadly stuff” on Feb. 7, you said the next month that “this is a flu” and “it’s very mild.”
Even in July, after COVID-19 had taken over 130,000 American lives, you claimed that 99% of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless.” While 99% of people may survive the virus, 15% of cases are considered severe and 5% are considered critical. There are also long-term effects that are yet to be understood and studied. Now, at my university alone, there have been over 2,500 cases of COVID-19. These students were told that they were practically immune to the virus by their president. I speak for my friends whom I witnessed receive positive tests, then struggle to breathe and talk, lose their senses of taste and smell, fall behind in school and now fear the possible long-term effects that young people are not immune to.
Thanks to your claims that the virus will magically disappear, Americans lived normally under the assumption that it would just go away. On May 8, you claimed “This is going to go away without a vaccine. … We are not going to see it again.” On May 8, the country was averaging 26,544 cases a day. Now, in mid-November, the United States averages 164,000 cases a day. Does it seem that this pandemic has disappeared “like a miracle” to you?
Early on, Americans could have taken this virus more seriously and slowed down the spread. However, you, the leader of our nation, decided to blatantly lie in an attempt to make everything appear as if it was under control. This virus could have been controlled by the beginning of the semester. Instead, college campuses across the nation were overwhelmed with thousands of students arriving from hotspots and high-risk states. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Thanks to your rush to open the economy, even as deaths and cases increased exponentially, students returning to school faced an extremely unsafe semester. On March 25, you said, “the faster we go back, the better it’s going to be.” Public health experts disagreed and claimed that pulling back social distancing guidelines so soon did not provide enough time for them to fully work.
It is important that the government reopen parts of the economy and do what it can to protect businesses and workers. However, pushing for a reopening without giving universities the funding necessary to provide public health informed semesters ensured that college campuses across the country would become massive hotspots.
Underscored by your stigmatization of wearing one, masks have not been accepted or embraced as necessary by many Americans. On April 3, you explained that you did not want to wear a face mask when you greeted leaders from other nations. You spent the beginning months of the pandemic questioning the effectiveness of masks and refusing to be photographed in one. Even once you began acknowledging that people should wear masks, you continued to send different messages to the American people. On Aug. 13, you said “maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”
Your inability to set a good example for Americans and wear a mask, even when science has repeatedly pointed to its effectiveness, has confused the American people and made the importance of wearing masks a point of unnecessary controversy. Even on college campuses, wearing a mask at social events has not been normalized. Repeatedly, I have been asked by friends, “Why are you wearing a mask?” Wearing a mask around friends now gives the impression that there is a level of discomfort or distrust by the mask wearer. If the president of the United States is questioning the need to wear a mask, the people will too.
With your refusal to take responsibility and continuous scapegoating of other powers as being responsible for America’s failed response, you have encouraged Americans to ignore how things could be different in our own country. On June 20, you said, “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’” On Sept. 10, you claimed that “This is nobody’s fault but China.”
In truth, the percentage of positive tests conducted has increased. This means that while testing has increased, a higher percentage of people getting tested are receiving positive results. Furthermore, the number of new cases reported has been more than many states’ testing capacities. While effective testing will show more cases than not testing anyone would, decreasing testing does not decrease cases. It only allows more people to unknowingly spread the virus and worsen the pandemic.
In addition, while the virus did start in China, the massive spread in the United States is your administration’s fault. Your administration chose to disband the White House pandemic response team in 2018, leaving the United States unprepared and vulnerable to a pandemic. Less than two years later, the U.S. has 25% of global COVID-19 cases and the 2nd highest death rate per capita with only 4% of the global population.
If you had encouraged people to social distance and wear a mask, therefore sending the message that we do hold responsibility for this nation’s future, people would have increased efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead, many have given up and claim that they cannot live in fear or “let the cure be worse than the problem,” as you have expressed yourself. However, the problem and the cure could have been much less detrimental if everyone was encouraged to take the pandemic seriously from the start.
Thanks to your push for schools to open this fall, many welcomed thousands of students without the tools or funds necessary to keep them safe. On April 22, you claimed, “If (coronavirus) comes back though, it won’t be coming back in the form that it was, it will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain … it’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all.”
As a college sophomore that spent more of my semester at home than on campus, attended all of my classes and extracurriculars from my bed, felt unsafe in campus buildings and local restaurants, watched almost all of my friends contract the virus and had to walk a mile to drop off my COVID-19 test at a Fed-Ex location because my university was unequipped to offer accessible, efficient testing, I can say with confidence that the virus has not gone away.
It has not magically disappeared. Young people are not immune. The lack of mask-wearing at social events and the false sense of security people have that COVID-19 will be like the flu if they do contract it has contributed to the spread of the virus. Schools were not ready to safely reopen. You are responsible.
A college student
Lizzy Peppercorn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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