The United States reached another grim milestone on the last full day of President Donald Trump’s administration, surpassing the 400,000 death mark—with the count of COVID-19 deaths under Trump’s watch likely to be included in his presidential legacy.
The number is particularly alarming because the U.S. only reached the 300,000 mark 36 days prior.
“One in every 820 people in our country have died during this pandemic—often alone, typically away from family and friends—comforted only by physicians and nurses in layers of PPE,” the American Medical Association said in a statement reported by Axios.
By early February, about three weeks into Joe Biden’s presidency, that number was one in 700 Americans had died in the U.S.
The Associated Press pointed out that the 400,000 total is nearly equal to the number of American lives lost annually to strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu, and pneumonia combined.
The report added that the current daily death tally, surpassing as many as 4,000 deaths a day, is the most since the pandemic began. That means, by the week ending Jan. 22, the number of COVID-19 deaths under Trump had surpassed the number of Americans killed in World War II.
“We need to follow the science and the 400,000th death is shameful,” Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, told the AP. “It’s so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided.”
In fact, on the last day of Trump’s administration, the U.S. accounted for nearly one of every five virus deaths reported worldwide; as the AP noted, that’s “far more than any other country despite its great wealth and medical resources.”
USA Today noted that the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic has been assailed by the medical community, with even the incredible achievement of multiple vaccines being developed tarnished by their slow rollout under Operation Warp Speed—a name that is being retired with the transition to a new administration.
“By any metric, anybody who believes in data and science would acknowledge we’ve done terribly with this pandemic, arguably the worst in the world,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor emeritus of infectious diseases at the University of California-Berkeley, in the USA Today article.
Swartzberg faulted the Trump administration for what the article characterized as “mixed messaging on masking,” as well as failures in testing and in distributing protective equipment to frontline workers.
“What that tells us is how badly things can go if you have a bad administration,” he added. “Everybody, including me, is excited about the vaccines, excited about science and what it can do for us. It’s incredibly important. But I think we downplay the importance of what a good administration can do in managing this pandemic. We will do a lot better when we have an administration that follows science and follows public health, that gives consistent messaging, that doesn’t politicize key institutions like the CDC and the FDA.’’
Trump contended at the start of January, as Forbes reported, that the country’s high numbers of cases and deaths have been “exaggerated,” blaming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the statistics it is producing.
Trump tweeted that the CDC uses “ridiculous methods of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurate and low.” He also suggested that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll includes deaths that weren’t caused by the virus.
He provided no evidence for either of those claims.
But when Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the administration’s coronavirus response, was asked whether Trump’s lack of “candor” cost American lives, Fauci said, “You know, it very likely did. When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful.”