The Death Toll of Donald Trump’s Delay Tactics

Tens of thousands may die between now and President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

An illustration of a red hourglass with a virus molecule inside.
The Atlantic

President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede coincides with an especially bad moment in the course of the pandemic. COVID-19 cases are spiking all over the United States. Almost 62,000 Americans were hospitalized on Tuesday alone. Hospitals are quickly running out of space for new patients. Tens of thousands may die between now and President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

A newly announced medical breakthrough could help stop this American carnage: Preliminary results from Pfizer’s vaccine trial suggest that it is more than 90 percent effective. If those results hold, tens of millions of Americans could be inoculated against the virus as soon as early 2021. Other vaccines may prove effective too. But taking full advantage of this development requires careful planning, as large-scale vaccination campaigns present tremendous logistical challenges.

Trump ought to be working closely with his successor’s transition team, particularly the men and women chosen to coordinate Biden’s pandemic response, because even a short delay in a vaccine’s rollout could cost tens of thousands of lives. Instead, he spends his days tweeting dubious stories about alleged voter fraud.

“Signing the paperwork when a new president is elected triggers the release of millions of dollars in transition funding and allows an incoming administration access to current government officials,” NBC explains.

“Trump’s refusal to concede the election means that officials at the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH cannot legally speak with Biden’s advisers about the progress of vaccine development, plans for distributing an eventual shot, or testing capacity,” Politico reports.

Every member of Congress ought to demand that Trump immediately start cooperating with Biden so that the president-elect is as prepared as possible on Inauguration Day.

But, according to reporting by CNN’s Jake Tapper, who spoke with Republicans “on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue” about Trump’s failure to concede, “what they say is, no one out there should worry that our democracy is in actual jeopardy. They say this is all part of walking President Trump through this process emotionally and that they assume that while he may never concede, he will leave … But they say it on background because they don’t want to upset President Trump, and they don’t want to get death threats from his supporters.”

Trump’s performative intransigence may or may not hurt American democracy in the long run, but in the short run, it risks thousands of excess COVID-19 deaths, with the potential toll increasing the longer his tantrum continues. That is the threat that ought to worry any Republican with any ability to pressure the president to start helping the pandemic-stricken country that is hostage to his self-pity.