Why the U.S. Will Fail to Open Up


Paul Becker

Protests against lockdowns have spread across the nation.

With a staggering 36 million unemployment claims since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Americans are desperate for society to reopen and for money to flow again. Take, for instance, the protests against lockdown rules. Moreover, the famed trillion-dollar relief package passed by the federal government, the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is rife with logistical issues: the system could not cope with the inundation of relief applications. Consequently, the majority of small business owners are yet to receive their funds, compounding their financial woes. Our economy cannot bear to remain stopped any longer, or we risk irreparable consequences. However, President Trump and the broader federal government have failed to adequately address the issue of re-opening; namely, by pushing all the onus of governing onto state municipalities, the federal government has created a disjointed COVID-19 response and, therefore, a recipe for disaster.

Republicans are often in favor of a smaller federal government, claiming that state governments are better equipped to address the individual idiosyncrasies of their constituents. This belief has manifested in President Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; indeed, Trump has yet to reveal a definitive plan to address COVID-19 on a national scale. Instead, he has left the work to individual governors and proclaimed success from their work, even as governors beg him for federal assistance. As the President, Trump holds incredible fiscal power to provide funds to states for crucial items such as masks and ventilators. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has asked repeatedly for federal financial aid, warning that states have been locked in bidding wars over a limited supply of ventilators. President Trump has ignored these pleas.

Disturbingly, President Trump and his administration have woven a web of lies and exaggeration with regards to the safety of reopening. “We’ve done more than 200,000 tests in a single day,” Vice President Mike Pence claimed proudly at a briefing. Trump later touted testing as “one of the great assets that we have” in reopening the United States. Yet, medical officials have all denounced these claims, as the number of tests required for a safe and appropriate reopening scheme dwarfs the current number of two hundred thousand by tenfold. Rather than two hundred thousand tests per day, we need two million. These kinds of exaggerated and specious reassurances are commonplace in the Trump administration. 

President Trump’s failure to release a coherent, united COVID-19 response dovetailed with his dangerous tendencies to exaggerate spells disaster for America’s reopening endeavors. Because the President has left the onus of addressing COVID-19 to the individual states, questions arise when places such as cities – the hardest-hit areas – include commuters from different states. For instance, commuters to New York City primarily include citizens from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. In Philadelphia, commuters include individuals from New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. In Chicago, commuters include Americans from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Without a comprehensive federal plan, it is impossible for all these separate states to collaborate and reopen safely. 

President Trump’s laissez-faire response to the COVID-19 pandemic will prove the ruin of America’s reopening campaign. Ultimately, in a moment of irony, as much as President Trump wants to ensure a functioning economy for his reelection bid, his hands-off approach to COVID-19 has sealed the nail in the coffin: America will see a second wave of infections, and it will be President Trump’s carelessness to blame.