The US could have averted 40% of the deaths from Covid-19, had the country’s death rates corresponded with the rates in other high-income G7 countries, according to a Lancet commission tasked with assessing Donald Trump’s health policy record.
Almost 470,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus so far, with the number widely expected to go above half a million in the next few weeks. At the same time some 27 million people in the US have been infected. Both figures are by far the highest in the world.
In seeking to respond to the pandemic, Trump has been widely condemned for not taking the pandemic seriously enough soon enough, spreading conspiracy theories, not encouraging mask wearing and undermining scientists and others seeking to combat the virus’ spread.
Dr Mary T Bassett, a commission member and director of Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, told the Guardian: “The US has fared so badly with this pandemic, but the bungling can’t be attributed only to Mr Trump, it also has to do with these societal failures … That’s not going to be solved by a vaccine.”
In a wide-ranging assessment published on Thursday, the commission said Trump “brought misfortune to the USA and the planet” during his four years in office. The stinging critique not only blamed Trump, but also tied his actions to the historical conditions which made his presidency possible.
“He was sort of a crowning achievement of a certain period but he’s not the only architect,” said Bassett, “And so we decided it’s important to put him in context, not to minimize how destructive his policy agenda has been and his personal fanning the flames of white supremacy, but to put it in context.”
The commission condemned Trump’s response to Covid, but emphasized that the country entered the pandemic with a degraded public health infrastructure. Between 2002 and 2019, US public health spending fell from 3.21% to 2.45% – approximately half the share of spending in Canada and the UK.
To determine how many deaths from Covid the US could have avoided, the commission weighted the average death rate in the other G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK – and compared it to the US death rate.
Read more of Amanda Holpuch’s report here: US could have averted 40% of Covid deaths, says panel examining Trump’s policies