Trump's response to COVID-19 has been satisfactory.
All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.
With 4 votes and 16 points ahead, the winner is ...
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I have more free time due to quarantine, so here we go....
Satisfactory: fulfilling expectations or needs, though not perfect.
I am PRO, you are CON.
Round 1: Constructive
Round 2: Rebuttal
Round 3: Defense
1. No Kritiks
2. No New arguments made in final round
3. No trolling
4. You must follow the Debate Structure
5. No Plagiarism
6. Must follow debate definitions.
**ANY violation of these warrants loss of debate.**
- Satisfactory: fulfilling expectations or needs, though not perfect.
- Has Been: from the beginning of the outbreak until present.
- Trump has been known to exaggerate for rhetorical purposes. I urge voters to give more weight to what he has done, rather than what he has said.
- American media is only 7% Republican, and about 80% of journalists believe that exposing government lies is a top priority (1). Bias creeps into news articles whether we like it or not.
- Satisfactory in this context is relative. Trump is not perfect, and by definition some screw-ups are permitted, as long as they are not very significant in impact. I urge voters to compare Trump’s response with those of others and gain some sort of objective assessment.
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are both drugs that have shown almost 100% efficacy in vitro (2)(3).
“our results show that HCQ can efficiently inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro. In combination with its anti-inflammatory function, we predict that the drug has a good potential to combat the disease. This possibility awaits confirmation by clinical trials.”
“We included six articles (one narrative letter, one in-vitro study, one editorial, expert consensus paper, two national guideline documents) and 23 ongoing clinical trials in China. Chloroquine seems to be effective in limiting the replication of SARS-CoV-2 (virus causing COVID-19) in vitro.”
- HCQ has shown results in France (4).
“We were able to ascertain that patients who had not received Plaquenil (the drug containing hydroxychloroquine) were still contagious after six days, but of those that had received Plaquenil, after six days, only 25% were still contagious.”
- Donald Trump has responded to the need of clinical trials for CQ and HCQ by instigating one in New York (5).
“The state acquired 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of zithromax and 750,000 doses of chloroquine in the last few days, according to a news release by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.”
- New York is also attempting to use convalescent plasma to treat patients (6).
- President Trump declared Coronavirus a national emergency after only 1,701 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US, and 40 deaths (7).
“Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
- Trump banned travel from China with only 5 COVID-19 cases, which Dr. Fauci credits with our better position compared to Italy (9).
- The U.S. pledged $100 million to help China and other countries combat the coronavirus on Feb. 7th (10).
- No country in the world is fully prepared for a pandemic. America is no exception, as the CDC had a hard time booting up initial testing in the US. However, America is still the best-prepared for Corona according to reports (10).
- The House is expected to pass a 2 trillion stimulus bill supported by Trump (11).
- Trump announced that the U.S. is banning foreign travelers from 26 countries in Europe for 30 days on March 11th.
- Trump has obviously encouraged social distancing to both the populace and governors. Lots of local efforts have been made to shut down events with large gatherings of people.
- 75,066 cases in the US with 1,080 deaths. About 50% of this is in New York alone (12).
"So far this season we've had between 30 and 40 million illnesses in the United States," Martin says. Of that number, about half were ill enough to seek medical care, and between 300,000 to 500,000 people required hospitalization. The CDC estimates that there have been 20,000 to 40,000 deaths in the United States so far this year.”
"Of the 44,672 coronavirus cases that were confirmed in China by Feb. 11, more than 36,000 — or 81 percent — were mild, according to a study published recently by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (13)”
To start, there is a basic question of whose expectations or needs we are concerned with. COVID-19 (CoV) was coming to the US regardless of any preventative measures, and thus an associated death toll was also inevitable. I also don’t think we can attribute low total numbers of infection to the actions of the Trump administration alone, as there are numerous state and local actors. We have to go case-by-case and assess both what the Trump administration could have done and what it did do to determine the effects of those choices. Anything that increased or stemmed the harms to either health or the economy could suffice, but I suggest we focus on things the administration did with available foreknowledge and the advice of experts.
So, what standards can we use to assess whether his response has been satisfactory? Responding to a crisis like this satisfactorily isn’t about getting it right most of the time; a few failures alone can demonstrate a non-satisfactory response. As such, this isn’t an equal burdens debate. Pro must show that the Trump administration did not cause substantial harm through any of its actions. Their efforts don’t have to be perfect, but any substantial negative by itself is non-satisfactory. For instance, if their actions caused or allowed many to be sickened, that is not satisfactory, regardless of other performance. Similarly, if their decisions increase the duration of the pandemic’s spread in the US, or substantially harm the economy in ways that lead to a prolonged shutdown of businesses or harms individual sustainability, those will demonstrate a non-satisfactory response.
Onto my arguments.
1) How have Trump’s words harmed the US?
Let’s start with health.
Trump has made claims regarding the proximity of access to vaccines and treatments that don’t hold up to basic scrutiny. The latter is the more damaging of the two, particularly with regards to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. While the FDA has recently used an Emergency Use Authorization to approve these, Trump claimed that they were already approved on March 19th. Neither the FDA, nor any other agency up to this point, had claimed that or approved these drugs (used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis) to be efficacious against CoV in humans. This publicity has led to a run on these drugs, leaving many of those with the conditions for which these drugs are usually prescribed (over 3 million people [2, 3]) high and dry, while providing no established benefits (studies supporting it are too small and inconsistent, and other evidence is anecdotal) and causing a bevy of side-effects in patients taking this and other related drugs and lacking sufficient clinical support.[4, 5]
Trump has also engaged in many efforts to downplay the threat of CoV. He made a number of initial claims about how bad CoV would be that led many to dismiss it as it was starting to spread across the US. Perhaps the most infamous is “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine”, a statement that was quickly proven wrong. Statements like this, as well as claims that it’s possible to practice effective social distancing in groups, have led and continue to lead many to defy experts and orders to engage in social distancing. More directly, his unwillingness to institute a national shelter in place order has allowed COVID-19 to run rampant in more than a dozen states, including Florida where over 5000 cases were documented before the governor was forced to do it himself. A single order could have slowed or halted spread in all these states.
Trump has also contradicted governors who instituted shelter in place policies. His calls to re-open businesses, inconsistent though they are, come in direct contrast to public health experts. While there may be room to argue about how long these restrictions should be in place, ending them early may quickly undo any benefits of these efforts. Sending the message that it should end earlier encourages more people to congregate, similarly encouraging the spread of the virus and increasing the need for a prolonged shut down of businesses. Even those suffering from business closures now know that opening early is a problem, as consumer confidence is still too low to make these efforts beneficial. Yet Trump’s statements put stress on businesses to open early, pushing them to use limited resources to entice customers who are likely still skittish, forcing workers who are vulnerable or have family members who need care during this crisis to work, and increasing the spread of the virus.
Now, how have those Trump’s words impacted the economy?
The effects of Trump’s words on the economy have been much more direct. His remarks on March 12th, in particular, showcased an inability to ease fears over CoV, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by almost 2000 points that day over the course of his speech and in the immediate aftermath. While CoV has caused a wide variety of economic woes, the fact that Trump is adding to them indicates how atrocious his ability to manage a country in crisis really is. Trump has repeatedly failed to ease public fears in this crisis, sowing confusion as other parts of the federal government have to repeatedly correct errors in his statements. That fear has a price: empty store shelves and a resulting lack of basic necessities in households across the country.
2) How has the response suffered due to slow response or inaction?
Transmission of CoV is a lot simpler when it goes undetected. When faced with this problem, other countries have stepped up to the challenge. South Korea, for example, tested more than 66,000 people in the first week after CoV was found within its borders. By contrast, the US took almost 3 weeks to do the same number of tests, and we have a much bigger population. The result was a far faster spread of the disease in the US. How did we fall so far short? Beyond some complications with our testing kits, the rollout for testing has been very slow. The federal government’s projections for the number of tests it performed around the country have been dramatically higher than the actual number of tests performed, suggesting a capacity that we did not actually have and frustrating efforts to track the spread of the virus. This lack of clear data regarding what is actually happening hampers our ability to address the spread of the virus and shows that the federal government has not taken all measures necessary to ensure that its spread is restricted. Finally, and most damaging of all, Trump made little effort to ensure that a rapid diagonistic test was approved, with efforts to work with private laboratories and hospitals coming a whopping 6 weeks after the first US case. All of this has conspired to raise the number of cases precipitously, with no sign of the leveling off that South Korea’s efforts have yielded. Worse still, Trump has made little effort to expand testing to more facilities, with only 5 of the 67,000 pharmacies nationwide testing for COVID-19.
The disturbing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers, as well as emergency medical technologies like ventilators, are also striking. The US was still shipping these supplies overseas as cases were mounting in the US. Still, the federal government has tools at its disposal to overcome existing deficiencies, including the Defense Production Act (DPA), which Trump finally decided to use on March 20th. Trump has already started compelling American companies to produce ventilators needed during this crisis. Of course, this is several weeks after the first cases of CoV appeared in the US, when hospital workers were already running out of PPE. The DPA hasn't been used to address PPE deficiencies, meaning that the lack of available PPE will persist. Trump’s delay in this response has put many of these workers in harm’s way as PPE shortages mount. It doesn’t help that federal agencies like the CDC have given “ever shifting” guidance to workers on how to use their available PPE, or that they’ve wasted resources sending the wrong equipment.[20, 21]
It also doesn’t help that, despite invoking the DPA, Trump has advised governors to just get ventilators themselves. This is particularly damaging for states like New York that require a large number of ventilators to address their disease burdens. The federal government has far greater buying power, and its bids on large numbers of supplies can keep prices relatively low. Meanwhile, states bidding on masks alone are paying exorbitant prices they can little afford, and that’s for winning bids. Many states are losing their bids, further lacking necessary equipment. Trump could solve for this, but instead, he argues with Cuomo and claims that hospitals are either hoarding PPE and ventilators – anything that excuses his slow provision of necessary equipment.[22, 23] However, that lack of ventilators will make a bad situation in New York far worse, causing more deaths in the coming weeks. Other states like Michigan have had shipments of medical supplies cancelled or delayed, then re-routed to the federal government, further reducing their supply.
“I also don’t think we can attribute low total numbers of infection to the actions of the Trump administration alone, as there are numerous state and local actors.”
“Pro must show that the Trump administration did not cause substantial harm through any of its actions… For instance, if their actions caused or allowed many to be sickened, that is not satisfactory, regardless of other performance. Similarly, if their decisions increase the duration of the pandemic’s spread in the US, or substantially harm the economy in ways that lead to a prolonged shutdown of businesses or harms individual sustainability, those will demonstrate a non-satisfactory response.”
“This publicity has led to a run on these drugs, leaving many of those with the conditions for which these drugs are usually prescribed (over 3 million people [2, 3]) high and dry, while providing no established benefits (studies supporting it are too small and inconsistent, and other evidence is anecdotal) and causing a bevy of side-effects in patients taking this and other related drugs and lacking sufficient clinical support.[4, 5]”
- Trump has never guaranteed either of these drugs to be sure-fire and only encourages more research and trials. Even within my opponent’s source, it clarifies that it is only “a feeling.” This does not sound irresponsible to me.
- Trump’s words here aim to calm the public. CON criticizes his optimism as irresponsible. Yet, CON later criticizes Trump’s “inability” to calm the public. CON has contradicted himself, and should clarify whether he wants Trump to be optimistic or wait for years of research before suggesting these drugs an option.
- With regards to supply, this is only a short term concern. According to FiercePharma,
- Compare the impacts of some not getting chloroquine for a small while versus the impacts of waiting over a year for a COVID-19 vaccine to roll out in small numbers.
- Refer back to the studies I have cited that give explicit results regarding chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness.
- Chloroquine was used on French patients, resulting in 78 out of 80 patients recovering within 5 days (1).
- The side-effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are well-known and studied. This is a drug that, when physicians are responsible, does not kill. Blaming Trump for irresponsible physicians is nonsensical.
“Trump has also engaged in many efforts to downplay the threat of CoV… Statements like this, as well as claims that it’s possible to practice effective social distancing in groups, have led and continue to lead many to defy experts and orders to engage in social distancing.”
- Once again CON contradicts himself on whether Trump should be optimistic or pessimistic.
- CON’s source is written by the nonsensical Jennifer Rubin, who openly calls Trump a “sociopath” and frequently undermines her own opinions within her opinion pieces. With just one example Wikipedia furthers:
- Completely aside from the fact that the author is nonsensical, CON’s source does not include any evidence of Trump ordering Americans to defy social distancing. In fact Trump has done nothing but the opposite.
“More directly, his unwillingness to institute a national shelter in place order has allowed COVID-19 to run rampant in more than a dozen states, including Florida where over 5000 cases were documented before the governor was forced to do it himself. A single order could have slowed or halted spread in all these states.”
- CON needs to show why Trump should have instituted a nation-wide order at the time of his evidence, when the virus was heavily isolated to certain regions. A national lockdown order ONLY makes sense when the virus is nationally distributed.
- Furthermore, CON explicitly agrees that state governors had the power to institute lockdowns based on the local need. If you want to criticize anyone, criticize the governors. Do not criticize Trump for recognizing that a “one size fits all” solution does not exist.
- CON just finished explaining how we can not attribute “low numbers” solely to the Trump administration because of local actors, yet he refuses to recognize the responsibility of local actors when it is inconvenient, rendering an interesting self-contradiction.
“Trump has also contradicted governors who instituted shelter in place policies. His calls to re-open businesses, inconsistent though they are, come in direct contrast to public health experts.”
- Trump has done nothing but extend the duration of lockdown guidelines as of my writing.
“His remarks on March 12th, in particular, showcased an inability to ease fears over CoV, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by almost 2000 points that day over the course of his speech and in the immediate aftermath.”
- Once again CON contradicts himself on whether Trump should be optimistic and ease fears, or pessimistic.
- Most economic woes come as the result of lockdown, which CON indicates he supports. CON has made another self-contradiction.
- Polls show consistent support of Trump’s COVID response, indicating that the exact opposite of CON’s argument is true.
- After the stock crash on March 12, it was followed by the biggest stock rise in history.
“Beyond some complications with our testing kits, the rollout for testing has been very slow.”
- This is not applicable to Trump. The CDC, independently operating, is to blame according to TIME.
“ Worse still, Trump has made little effort to expand testing to more facilities, with only 5 of the 67,000 pharmacies nationwide testing for COVID-19.”
- This is because you do not get tested at pharmacies, you get tested at state medical centers. Once again, not to the fault of Trump, but the CDC.
“The disturbing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers, as well as emergency medical technologies like ventilators, are also striking.”
- Trump has repeatedly indicated that federal intervention is a last resort, and rightfully so. States handle equipment best since, as stated before, the severity of the coronavirus pandemic varies from state to state. Forcing nationwide companies to start drastically transforming what they produce is a big decision that can result in many layoffs for Americans that are not in very affected regions.
- Furthermore, private companies are a big source of equipment that are virtually uncovered by the media (2). The demand exists, now private industry is stepping up to meet it.
- Even if this shortage were Trump’s fault, it would still not meet the conditions for a “substantial” mistake, since America’s death rate from CoV is only about 1% higher than South Korea’s, the “model” country for coronavirus response.
I’ll start with Con’s observations:
COV1: Trump’s “exaggerations” are not benign. Impact matters, not the means by which it occurred.
COV2: Regardless of any perceived bias in our sources, any analysis thereof is only valid if it tackles the claims made in the argument.
COV3: Don't grade Trump’s performance on a curve. Trump’s actions stand for themselves; efforts to compare pandemics or presidents do not establish how well this president has done with this pandemic.
Observations of Pro's rebuttals:
ROV1: Pro asserts contradictions in my arguments. To do so, he conflates all optimistic statements and treats them all as beneficial. Trump has had information that his statements ignored. Pro does not validate those statements - thus, this optimism is misplaced. A leader must both recognize the basic facts and present a positive outlook. Ignoring those facts to sound optimistic only breeds distrust. By Pro’s logic, Trump would best serve the American public by constantly lying about CoV to sound positive, yet that kind of optimism destroys confidence in our leaders.
ROV2: Pro argues that decisions by other parties are not Trump’s responsibility. While Trump does not bear the entire responsibility for decisions made by other leaders in the US, he does still bear some responsibility where he could have influenced them or overridden them. Recognizing that blame is shared doesn’t redeem Trump.
ROV3: Pro argues that Trump has corrected himself. Trump’s inconsistency is, itself, harmful. It’s not clarifying to have a leader oscillate between caution and impatience.
Onto the debate.
1) CoV Spread
B) Preventing its arrival
The Europe travel ban came in stages long after the disease became widespread. Trump waited until mid-March to implement these travel bans, when Italy had over 10,000 cases, and excluded countries like the UK and Ireland for days as their cases began to skyrocket.
B) Restricting its spread
The spread of CoV has been reduced by social distancing efforts. Successes have largely resulted from state and local messaging. Pro’s claim that Trump has “obviously encouraged social distancing” is belied by numerous statements he’s made, yet Pro’s only responses to those quotes are to dismiss my source 6 as biased and say that Trump has made some accurate statements.
For the first, refer to COV2. Pro does not challenge the validity of those quotes, nor does he challenge the conclusion that these statements have led many to defy social distancing efforts.
For the second, refer to ROV3. Accuracy in some instances does not erase the quotes I’ve cited, each dropped by Pro. Trump downplayed the threat of CoV many times.[28, 29] Similarly, Trump’s release of lockdown guidelines runs contrary to his disparaging shelter in place orders and wanting them rescinded early. The lack of consistency by itself leads to the outcomes I described (and Pro dropped) that do more to spread the virus.
Trump’s lockdown guidelines came weeks late. Despite being repeatedly advised to release these guidelines since February 21st, the first guidelines were released in mid-March. No less than Dr. Fauci himself has stated that implementing these earlier “could have saved lives.”
What would nationwide order have done? Many that failed to implement shelter in place order early and saw soaring cases. For example, Florida had over 5000 cases before its governor took action. There are still several states with limited or non-existent shelter in place policies, and their numbers continue to rise largely unabated without an order. These cases could have been slowed or stopped by a nationwide order.
Pro cedes the harms resulting from the lack of testing, arguing that the Trump administration is not responsible for the actions of the CDC. The CDC is part of the executive branch and therefore part of his administration. They’re under HHS, which is headed by Alex Azar, a Trump appointee. They don’t act wholly independently. Their failure is Trump’s failure. So is the failure of the FDA to use regulatory work-arounds to make this rollout of testing faster. So the failure to expand testing, to use the WHO-developed test, and Trump’s false projections of its expansion are Trump's responsibility.
Three responses to Pro’s claims on equipment and PPE.
Pro drops sources 22 and 23, which show that states are bidding on equipment and PPE, raising their prices astronomically and denying access for many, which belies Pro's claim that “[s]tates handle equipment best”. Pro drops that the federal government could keep them low via purchasing power alone. Even if we ignore the DPA, this alone would increase available supplies to states that can’t afford soaring prices.
Pro ignores the solvency of the DPA, which ensures a greater supply of these necessary tools and reduces their price. Pro provides some evidence that companies are producing these supplies, but that supply increase hasn’t brought down prices or increased availability significantly. However, these companies demonstrate that, contrary to Pro's claims, shifting production to products in huge demand doesn’t cause mass layoffs.
Pro’s comparison to South Korea works against him. As Pro conceded, the number of cases in South Korea have plateaued, while the number in the US continue to rise. Part of that rise is the spread of CoV to health care workers, which is rampant due to this lack of necessary PPE. As for death tolls, epidemiologists have stated that we’re not at a peak yet . New York might be, which is why theirs is spiking.
2) CoV Treatment
Let’s talk about CQ.
Pro drops Trump’s claim. He claimed that these drugs were already approved by the FDA for this purpose. That’s not something you can clarify by saying it’s “a feeling.”
Pro also argues about optimism. Refer back to ROV1; Trump is not required to wait for years of drug testing to occur, but he must present the situation honestly.
Pro shows that the supply of CQ is increasing but fails to assess demand. There are numerous examples of doctors hoarding the drug for family and friends and prescribing the medication with abandon.[39, 40] This supply boost may not be enough for the CoV demand plus the 3 million patients with lupus and RA, many of whom are also hoarding the medication. Lack of access could lead to extensive damage to the vital organs of lupus patients.
Pro fails to establish any actual impact of CQ use in hospitals, despite their broad implementation. He focuses on studies, so I’ll do the same.
Pro’s Nature study is entirely in vitro, i.e. non-clinical. It doesn't show efficacy in patients.
The review Pro cites discusses 23 small clinical studies, but of the few that have ended, some have shown no effect. They’re not alone.[43, 44]
On the French studies.
The first is far too small and lacks controls. It was rushed through peer review, concludes using 6 patients, uses an incomparable control group can’t distinguish between the effects of CQ and azithromycin, and excludes the results of patients who dropped out after visiting the ICU or dying.[45-47]
The second had more patients, but no control group and has not been validated by peer review. 85% of these patients didn’t even have a fever, and thus were likely to clear the virus without intervention.[48, 49]
The side-effects of CQ are well-studied… in other patients. CoV may actually cause heart disease, which is worsened by CQ, which means this treatment is inherently risky.[50, 51] The prescribing physicians bear some responsibility for patients with preexisting conditions, but so do the people that incite these patients to panic and demand CQ.
3) CoV Impact
Pro downplays the impact of CoV, claiming:
“something that mildly affects 10 percent of Americans for 2 weeks should not be considered substantial in the context of a national emergency.”
That is a loaded statement. It’s unclear what a mild effect is, but more importantly, as patients often recover in 2 weeks, Pro is basically asserting that anyone who gets CoV and has mild symptoms is not impactful. I have 3 responses.