Bill Kaplan: Trump and Johnson, dead wrong about COVID-1

photo by: Gage Skidmore

Trump and Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson’s incompetent response to COVID-19 continues to hammer the economy. Double-digit unemployment nationally, and in WI. “The Wisconsin Economic Forecast, a state report, said … that it could take two years for the state to recover to pre-coronavirus employment levels, with personal income growth projected to fade dramatically this year and next” (Washington Post-WP). Meanwhile, COVID-19’s toll skyrockets.

More than 3.2 million cases nationally, over 36,000 in WI. U.S. cases are on track to rise to 100,000 a day. COVID-19 deaths are increasing nationally to past 135,000 and over 800 in WI. Health experts predict a death toll of 200,000 soon. Moreover, COVID-19 is hitting northern rural WI (Ashland and Douglas County). Community spread in rural WI would be catastrophic for a region that is uninsured and is underserved by hospitals and doctors.

However, Trump and Johnson continue to be dead wrong about COVID-19. “White House officials … hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day …” (WP). Trump said: “I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope” (WP). Trump also falsely claims “99 percent” of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless”. He wants us to forget the dead and thousands with long-term serious health problems. Johnson, on Trump’s wave-length, said: “I think we overreacted. We closed too much of our economy down … .” But premature state reopenings, failure to wear masks and limited adherence to social distancing caused the renewed surge.

All reminiscent of when Trump and Johnson opposed controlling the spread of COVID-19 by heartlessly comparing COVID-19 fatalities to auto-related deaths. But they were wrong on the science, pretended COVID-19 deaths would be similar to or less than the 40,000 annual auto accidents deaths and overlooked the fact that auto accidents aren’t contagious. It’s the same when Trump and Johnson pushed unproven medication such as hydroxychloroquine. And, who can forget when Trump thought it might be useful to ingest disinfectants!

Trump and Johnson are now attempting to take health coverage and protections from 23 million, including hundreds of thousands in WI. Again, they have gone to the Supreme Court – in the middle of a pandemic! All on top of nearly 27 million, including 446,000 Wisconsinites, losing private health insurance because COVID-19 is out-of-control. Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers has done his best, e.g., helping enroll about 85,000 in Medicaid.

However, more could be done if the GOP-led WI legislature expanded Medicaid like 37 other states. “Missouri’s the next red state test for Medicaid expansion at ballot box” (Forbes). The business community, hospitals and doctors have gotten behind the August 4 vote. WI GOP state Senator Luther Olsen wants the legislature to consider Medicaid expansion. Interim UW System President (former GOP governor) Tommy Thompson should weigh in. State savings from federally funded (90%) Medicaid expansion would help the UW System.

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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