With the coronavirus pandemic, Trump administration’s true leadership on display

March 16, 2020
Editorials

Originally Published by The Washington Examiner

The sign of true leadership is being willing to do the right thing even if it’s not popular, even when you know the national media is going to say otherwise. The sign of a strong leader is staying calm under immense pressure and navigating a crisis, making a plan, and keeping the ship headed in the right direction even through headwinds. In the modern age of Twitter politics and intentionally sensational cable news on both sides, we often lose sight of true leadership. When there is an unpreventable public emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic, politics don’t matter — we need to all row in the same direction, united together as countrymen.

This week, one of President Trump’s most outspoken critics, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, said this about the president and his team’s response to the cruise ship in Oakland: “Every single thing [Trump] said, they followed through on. Every single thing. His administration — and it starts at the top, including the vice president — has been consistent.”

What a fantastic report and an example of true public service. Both conservatives and liberals should look at that situation objectively and realize that in an era of total polarization in politics, two opposing executives put their differences aside to solve a crisis and save lives. This should be the model of discourse and partnership on combating the coronavirus pandemic for the foreseeable future.

As physicians, we are taught to keep calm and, above all, do no harm. People across the country should follow the same motto.

The United States and the Trump administration have the best medical experts in the world. What can’t be easily counted are the many lives that have been saved thanks to the implementation of various mitigation and prevention strategies over the last six weeks. For instance, President Trump’s ban on Chinese travel six weeks ago was quickly deemed “xenophobic” by the blue-checkmark brigade on Twitter. As it turns out, there is absolutely no telling how many American lives were protected because of it.

The coronavirus is uniquely efficient in infecting people, so if the disease spreads in our communities, containment will no longer be realistic, and we’ll all be worse off. The president’s travel ban and containment policy are positioned to flatten the curve and decrease the outbreak of this virus.

This last summer working with Congress, the president included $1.2 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile. Trump then added another $3.1 billion to these strategic stockpiles as part of the recent $8.1 billion emergency supplemental package. Funding for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and advanced biomedical research are up nearly 25% versus 2015, and infectious-disease funding is up by more than 70%. The administration has been preparing for a day like this.

In January, the Trump administration created a Coronavirus Task Force composed of our nation’s top health officials and government agencies with the full resources of the federal government to bear, especially the Department of Health and Human Services's agencies. They developed diagnostic test kits, validated 40 public health laboratories to perform the tests, and are working with 75 commercial laboratories to help make additional diagnostic tests available. HHS also partnered with pharmaceutical innovators to investigate vaccine candidates, with the potential for one to be ready for federal approval within one year and available within 18 months. But we know the president is pushing, breaking down barriers to have one ready by next winter. And perhaps most importantly, and thanks to private innovation, life-saving antivirals are already in Phase I trials.

The administration also took quick action to ensure that patients covered under Medicare and Medicaid are also secured in receiving care and testing for all medically necessary items and services, including telemedicine. Finally, HHS issued guidance to help state agencies ensure the safety of healthcare facilities in infection control.

It is unfortunate that Democratic leadership has, once again, used a crisis as an opportunity to bring forth legislation loaded with completely unrelated excess spending and attempted to rescind policies that aid the administration’s ability to mitigate and prevent the spread of the virus. Slowing the rate of outbreak buys time for the development of medical countermeasures.

As physicians and healthcare providers, and now members of Congress, the most important thing we can do to keep the public and our economy healthy is to blunt this virus. Ensuring safe and effective medicine takes time. Deploying these newly available resources, too, takes time.

Let’s see what our recently passed $8 billion support package can do. Stay calm. Be smart. Wash your hands. If you’re sick, stay home. If you are over the age of 60, or have a medical condition, distance yourself from other people. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have laid out a solid plan — let’s stick to the plan.

Reps. Roger Marshall, M.D., and Brian Babin, D.D.S., are Republicans. Marshall represents Kansas's 1st Congressional District. Babin represents Texas's 36th Congressional District.

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