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Editorial: Musk, Trump COVID-19 responses put money above health

Editorial: Musk, Trump COVID-19 responses put money above
health 1

Business reopenings should be based on medical science, not on the size of one’s bank accounts, political connections or Twitter temper tantrums.

The sage guidance and early action of Bay Area health officials has thus far spared the region a devastating surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. But cases continue to mount locally, statewide and across the nation.

Unfortunately, Elon Musk, who repeatedly dismissed the coronavirus threat and branded stay-at-home orders as fascist, has now defied county health orders by reopening the Fremont Tesla factory. On Tuesday, President Trump, who continues to ignore his own medical advisors and press states to reopen swiftly, blessed the CEO’s actions.

Trump’s tweet in support of Musk is yet another example of the president claiming that decisions on reopening should be left to state and local officials, then encouraging insurrection when he doesn’t like their decisions.

The president, who sees his reelection prospects tied to the speed of the nation’s reopening, was putting politics above public health – on the same morning one of his top health advisors was cautioning against accelerated moves.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, in Senate testimony Tuesday warned of “suffering and death that could be avoided” and of further economic damage if states reopen too quickly.

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The reality is that most states, including California, lack sufficient testing capacity and needed ability to track the contacts of infected people to rev up their economies. Indeed, most states fail to meet even the White House’s guidelines for reopening. Alameda County and the Bay Area are no exception.

Meanwhile, the toll continues to mount. At least 1.3 million people have been infected in the United States and deaths have surpassed 80,000, an estimate that Fauci said Tuesday was probably an undercount.

He also rejected Trump’s claims that the virus would disappear without a vaccine. “That is just not going to happen,” Fauci said. “It’s a highly transmissible virus. It is likely there will be virus somewhere on this planet that will likely get back to us.”

Which is why local health officials must follow the science, not the rants of the president or business leaders following stock market charts rather than the tracking of coronavirus cases. We all want to reopen the economy, but a reopening that leads to another surge of COVID-19 cases will set the nation back on both fronts.

And we certainly don’t want to be relying on Musk for guidance on when to reopen. In January, he predicted it would turn out to be comparable to a common cold. In early March, he said, “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” Later that month, he predicted “close to zero new cases in US by end of April.”

As a nation, as a state and as a region, will we be guided by President Trump and the Elon Musks of the world? Or will we listen to the Dr. Fauci and local health officials? It shouldn’t be a close call.

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