Arlington, VA

Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On October 8, the New England Journal of Medicine published an unprecedented editorial entitled “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum.” Without mentioning Donald Trump’s name, the editorial presents a devastating indictment of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After using specific metrics to demonstrate why and how the national governments of many other countries have done a far superior job regarding COVID-19 than the U.S. government, the editorial notes:

“Governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized, appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence….”

The editorial concludes:

“[T]ruth 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. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

Specific impacts on Arlington

Donald Trump’s leadership failures regarding the COVID-19 pandemic have harmed Arlington residents in the same kinds of ways that those failures have harmed residents of Riverside, California, or Austin, Texas, or Oshkosh, Wisconsin, or Brunswick, Maine. But Trump has caused additional harm here in Arlington over and above the harm he has inflicted everywhere else.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, who “has been a voice of logic and stability since the pandemic began,” identified the September 26 Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a COVID-19 super spreader event:

“[P]eople were crowded together, were not wearing masks. So the data speak for themselves,” Fauci told CBS News Radio host Steven Portnoy….A significant number of attendees of the Rose Garden ceremony later tested positive for COVID-19, including Trump… .”

This Rose Garden event led health departments from D.C. and nine other neighboring jurisdictions (including Arlington) to protest the lack of contact tracing and the increased risks to residents throughout the Washington region of contracting COVID-19.

The Coney Barrett event was not an isolated one in terms of specific Arlington health impacts. In August, Trump spoke to a crowd of several hundred at a Pentagon City hotel. “Reporters covering the event noted that many conference attendees did not seem to heed requests to physically distance and wear masks in the ballroom.”

Staffers at Trump’s Rosslyn HQ have been correctly criticized for not following CDC guidelines:

[S]taffers were not social distancing and no one was wearing masks, a likely violation of Virginia’s mask requirement for indoor public spaces … .”

These repeated violations ultimately led to an urgent letter from Congressman Beyer and County Board Chair Garvey, stating in part:

“Earlier this summer, Vice President Pence shared and then deleted a photograph which showed him addressing a packed room of unmasked staff at the Trump Campaign’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters. Subsequent news reports sourced to campaign staff revealed that Virginia public health guidance and safety rules requiring social distancing and face coverings in indoor settings are often ignored there. …

“We beseech you to prioritize the health of the people around you, including your own staff and, especially, the residents of Arlington whom we represent. The future health of our community may depend on it.”

Conclusion

In backing Joe Biden for President — the first Presidential endorsement in its 175-year history, Scientific American concluded:

“The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people–because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic. …It’s time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science.”

Vote for Joe Biden. Arlington’s health depends on it.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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