Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Margaret Valenti writes about the uncertainty during the pandemic fed by misinformation and partisan divide.

The next statement should not need to be put into words, but please do not inject or ingest disinfectant as a cure for COVID-19, it is dangerous and could lead to severe illness or death. Many news organizations gave similar warnings after the President’s remarks during a press briefing on Friday. That did not stop people from being hospitalized for injecting or ingesting disinfectant because the President told them it would keep them safe from contracting COVID-19.

Leaders we should be able to rely on are now the voices that could cost us our lives. The President, Governors, Senators, Representatives, and Mayors suggest reopening states prematurely and putting the U.S. economy over human lives. They also prop up drugs as a cure-all when they are not, downplay the death toll and the seriousness of this global pandemic, and suggest that states and hospitals are hoarding personal protective equipment and ventilators, among other harmful sentiments and actions. When the world, the country, needs strong leadership, we cannot turn to our own leaders for reliable information or helpful, informed guidance. Instead, we are being misled as our leaders still echo harmful, deadly sentiments.

If one can believe it

The President of the United States suggested aloud during a press briefing on COVID-19 that there should be more research to look into the viability of using sunlight, ultraviolet or “very powerful” light, inside the body to treat the virus “through the skin or in some other way”. Then, he made a more shocking statement, if one can believe it. Trump suggested that doctors investigate the possibility of injecting people with disinfectant as a treatment for COVID-19. His exact words, “injection [of disinfectant] inside or almost a cleaning”.

There is no need to study or test either of these theories because the answer is obvious to any medical professional, especially regarding the injection of disinfectants into the body. Injecting anyone with disinfectant to study its effectiveness against COVID-19 would be irresponsible and deadly. Disinfectant works on surfaces with strong chemicals that kill the virus. When injected or ingested, the disinfectant kills everything in the cells from the inside out. In extreme cases, ingesting disinfectant is deadly. 

Donald Trump has since come out saying he was being sarcastic when he suggested injecting disinfectant as a cure. Regardless, sarcasm is not an effective tool during a time of crisis. People listen to him because he is the President of the United States — a title he needs to take seriously in this pandemic. Already, hospitals see a rise in the number of people ingesting disinfecting products to try to cure themselves of the virus. 

As for bringing light inside the body, Trump based his claims on the theory that viruses like COVID-19 tend not to do well in warmer climates. A recent Trump administration study found that heat, humidity, and sunlight make it harder for COVID-19 to survive in the air and on surfaces. How a doctor would go about bringing light inside the body is unclear, but Doctor Deborah Birx said she never heard of the possibility of heat and light to treat COVID-19 in a person.

 The whole exchange is quite remarkable with the President ‘suggesting but not suggesting’ that it is sunlight that could help in the fight against COVID-19, inviting more people to leave their homes. “Liberate Minnesota” he tweeted last Friday, “Liberate Michigan” he tweeted shortly after, and “Liberate Virginia! And save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!” he wrote to wrap up his series of tweets. He referred to the right-wing protests around the country that demanded a lifting of state lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus.

These are not the only dangerous remarks the President made over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. He suggested the pandemic did not exist in the U.S., then said he knew how bad it would get the whole time. Then he suggested states and hospitals hoarded personal protective equipment and ventilators and promoted largely untested and unverified treatments that in some cases caused death (in relation to his promotion of hydroxychloroquine). Trump is the most dangerous voice during the COVID-19 crisis but he is not the only one.

Misinformation and lies about COVID-19

Others came into the spotlight for their promotion of dangerous misinformation and lies about COVID-19. In a recent interview with Anderson Cooper, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman put forth a plan that would make Las Vegas the “control group” for the COVID-19 pandemic to see if the country needs the level of social distancing currently required by most states. “We offered to be a control group”, she said to Cooper, despite many leaders and groups within the state coming out against Goodman’s remarks during that interview. She was not willing, theoretically, to go out into an open-during-COVID-19 Las Vegas society herself. “I have a family”, she said, and the hypocrisy of that statement is mind-blowing.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in an interview with Tucker Carlson that the elderly should be willing to die to keep the U.S. economy functioning, even saying he would make the sacrifice himself for his grandchildren. As of three days ago, he still believes that saying to Carlson that “there are more important things than living . . .  saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us . . . we’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running”. 

To correct the Texas Lt. Gov., there are in fact more important things than the U.S. economy, human life should be valued above all else. Even though there are more people unemployed today than during The Great Depression, the U.S. economy can and will survive the pandemic. Whether everyday life will be the same is unclear and there will be many challenges ahead, but that should never undermine the value of human life.

The Governor of Georgia, Brian Kempe, despite criticism, partially reopened the state of Georgia on Friday. Businesses such as fitness centers, tattoo parlors, and nail salons, can resume pre-pandemic activities in the state of Georgia, but Georgia is not the only state to propose such dangerous measures. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with Trevor Noah that even as the number of confirmed cases and deaths decrease daily in New York City, that does not mean that social distancing should no longer be in effect. 

According to the Governor, on April 21st NYC reached a low of about four hundred and seventy-four deaths that day, so the decline is still staggering. It is evidence that social distancing is working, but if states are to reopen now, even partially, those numbers may quickly be on the rise again. The confirmed COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. stands at 48,816 and the confirmed number of cases is at 865,585 according to the CDC. To say that it is irresponsible for states to open, even as the number of confirmed cases and deaths decline daily in many areas, is an understatement.

Once upon a time

The virus has yet to run its course in the U.S., that is the unfortunate reality of the situation. Many policymakers, however, act like “the cure is worse than the problem” as Donald Trump famously said, quoting Fox News anchor Steve Hilton. Due to leadership’s inability to fathom the rapidness of the spread and the danger of COVID-19, the U.S. has the highest death rate in the world. There was a time when the U.S. led the world as an international authority on almost every issue; since the inauguration of President Trump, that is no longer the case. Instead, the world looks to countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and South Korea, among others who took the appropriate measures to deal with the pandemic. 

In a country with only two ICU beds, the Prime Minister of Saint Martin, Silviera Jacobs, sent a strong message to her country that immediately went viral. “Stop moving. Simply stop moving”, she said. Her words during this crisis are more valuable than any the current President of the United States said throughout the pandemic. With the exception of going out to buy food and other necessary supplies, unless you are an essential worker, simply stop moving. It does not matter what the President says, or any Governor, Representative, Senator, or Mayor not taking the pandemic seriously. Tune them all out completely. That is what will save lives, not drinking disinfectant, or putting the economy above human lives.

The only reliable sources are the WHO and the CDC, who despite criticism continue to provide the most up to date and lifesaving information related to the pandemic. It is sad that we cannot rely on U.S. leadership today, but hopefully, there will be a time when we can again. Until then, stay safe and stay inside as much as feasibly possible, protect yourself and others to the best of your ability, and simply stop moving to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Margaret Valenti is the Editor of Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. 

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