(REUTERS) – Many U.S. media have criticized President Donald Trump for the unexpected rapid spread of the novel coronavirus across the country and the government’s slow response to the pandemic.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States reached a high of 100,717 as of Friday, with nearly 20,000 new cases reported in a single day and more than 10,000 new cases for the fourth consecutive day, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
New York City is the current epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the country. Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, however, is at the center of this crisis.
In just one 24-hour period this week, at least 13 patients were reported to have died at the hospital, where the medical examiner’s office has stationed a refrigerated trailer to act as a makeshift morgue, according to a report by the Guardian daily newspaper on Friday.
“People are going to die,” said Francisco Moya, the New York City council member who represents the Elmhurst neighborhood. “The rate in the next few days [will] continue to go up, and people are going to get scared and get shocked,” he added.
The New York Times said this public hospital is “overcrowded” and “overwhelmed”, and that the only one thing they can appeal to the outside world is to “help us”.
Medical workers there described the scene in the hospital as “apocalyptic”, saying some people have died and local residents had to stand in the testing line in the pouring rain.
The situation is not optimistic neither for the New York Police Department (NYPD).
According to the Hill and the Fox News, the NYPD announced Friday that 552 members have tested positive for COVID-19, as the disease caused by the highly contagious virus is known, including two deaths. Another 4,111 NYPD uniformed employees were on sick leave.
Media reports say the rapid spread of the virus and the increased capability for testing have led to a surge in confirmed cases in the U.S. In 36 states including Washington D.C., only no more than 10,000 people have got tested.
Beth Cameron, who previously served as the senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council, said in her article published in Washington Post on March 13 that Trump’s move to close her office in May 2018 and top White House official in charge of pandemic response Timothy Ziemerm’s abrupt departure have left the country less prepared for pandemics like COVID-19.
In 2016, the Obama White House established the global health security office at the National Security Council to prevent the next outbreak from becoming an epidemic or pandemic if possible, she said.
“It would identify needs among state and local officials, and advise and facilitate regular, focused communication from federal health and scientific experts to provide states and the public with fact-based tools to minimize the virus’s spread,” said Cameron, “A White House office would have been able to elevate urgent issues fast, so they didn’t linger or devolve to inaction, as with coronavirus testing in the United States.”
“The office would galvanize resources to coordinate a robust and seamless domestic and global response,” she said.
If the office still existed, “we partnered with federal departments and agencies as they monitored evolving outbreaks, triggering alarms for decision-makers when those outbreaks began to take on unusual or worrisome characteristics,” she said.
Cameron also said that “in a health security crisis, speed is essential” and that the “specter of rapid community transmission and exponential growth is real and daunting.”
“The job of a White House pandemics office would have been to get ahead: to accelerate the response, empower experts, anticipate failures, and act quickly and transparently to solve problems,” she added.
The U.S. Foreign Policy website said that the U.S. health system’s funding has been cut since 2018.
“White House efforts included reducing 15 billion U.S. dollars in national health spending and cutting the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NSC (National Safety Council), DHS (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), and HHS (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). And the government’s 30 million U.S. dollars Complex Crises Fund was eliminated,” it said.
According to analysis done by the CNN, Trump “bears direct responsibility for America’s unpreparedness and failed response to the epidemic.”
It said, “when the epidemic hit, Trump ignored it, downplayed it, and made repeated false claims. Even now, he spouts vulgar nonsense about restarting the economy by Easter when public health experts say the threat is going to persist for far longer.”
“Even with active control, we might be facing around 81,000 deaths by July,” according to a new detailed analysis from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The U.S. should “try to control the virus as the East Asian countries are doing and in the process we will rescue the economy too. We need decisive action across states and cities,” the analysis said.
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