As of Tuesday, covid-19 has killed more than 247,000 people in the United States and has infected more than 11.3 million. But as Americans plan funerals and ready themselves for stricter safety guidelines, Ivanka Trump is spreading dubious claims about her father’s involvement in the development of new covid-19 vaccines while Congress abandoned any interest in pandemic relief altogether.
The rise in covid-19 cases this fall were anticipated, but are no less distressing. According to NBC News, some midwestern states—like the Dakotas—are experiencing the worst rise to date, while states hit hard by the deadly virus early in the pandemic, like New York and Texas, are experiencing smaller upticks but steady increases in infections and hospitalizations. Colorado is gearing up for hospital bed and staff shortages while Oklahoma reports that there are no ICU beds available in Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city. The winter outlook is increasingly bleak, but the urgency from Washington is lacking.
Politico’s Playbook described Congress at a standstill. “There are no conversations right now about another round of Covid relief,” the brief reads. “None. The White House is silent. The Hill is quiet. That means no new programs, no new money for Americans before the holiday season.”
It went on to list the various covid-19 protections put in place that will run out by year’s end: Pandemic emergency compensation and unemployment assistance ends as does student loan forbearance, eviction moratoriums, small business debt relief, and more.
Safety nets that have kept Americans and small businesses afloat for months are on the verge of collapse, without any promises from elected representatives to extend benefits or improve upon them. Instead, Americans are waking up to headlines about Senator Lindsey Graham pressuring Georgia’s Secretary of State to throw out ballots from the general election in the hopes of securing a President Trump victory during the statewide recount (an unlikely outcome considering Biden’s 14,000 vote lead in the state).
Poor prioritization is no surprise in Congress. But time is of the essence like never before, and their inaction will leave countless Americans in an economic tailspin.
Thankfully, vaccine development continues to look promising. On Monday, Moderna announced that its covid-19 vaccine was 94.5 percent effective in its latest trial. But this potential breakthrough couldn’t make the rounds without the Trumps insisting they receive credit. After the announcement, Ivanka Trump—eldest daughter and advisor of President Trump—tweeted, “Fact Check: This Moderna /NIH vaccine is literally the one that President @realDonaldTrump partnered with Moderna to create on January 13, 2020... I repeat January 13th, 2020.” She added that this is “great news for America and the world” and that everyone should “just be happy.”
But Trump reportedly first started receiving intelligence briefings about covid-19 in late January, and continued to downplay the threat of the virus for several months after that. And according to journalist Bob Woodward, Trump privately knew about the true severity of covid-19 as early as February 7, but Trump denies misleading the American people about it.
The New York Times reports that Moderna has received $1 billion from the United States government, cementing its status as a beneficiary of Operation Warp Speed. But according to a Moderna press release, the government didn’t start funding Moderna’s research until April. And according to Forbes, Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, was eagle-eyed about the covid-19 pandemic in early January and told his staffers to watch its development closely.
From Forbes (emphasis ours):
When the genomic sequence of the virus was released online by Chinese scientists on January 11, 2020, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna team had a vaccine design ready within 48 hours. It shipped a batch of its first vaccine candidate to the National Institutes of Health for a phase one study just 42 days after that. In early March, Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, which represents an entirely new way to provide immunity to disease, was injected into humans for the first time.
Given the timeline, it appears as if Moderna’s CEO and the NIH deserve credit for hopping on their vaccine research on January 13, not President Trump, who appeared much more interested in boasting about the assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani and mocking Democratic primary candidates on Twitter than covid-19 at the time.
But this is Team Trump’s modus operandi: Last week, Pfizer announced that the preliminary data of their own covid-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. Vice President Mike was eager to credit President Trump and Operation Warp Speed on Twitter, but while the federal government promised to buy the first 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, Pfizer didn’t accept federal money to aid in their research whatsoever.
So here we are: It’s mid-November and president-election Joe Biden is begging for Congress to get their shit together and pass a covid-19 relief bill while the Trump administration is desperate to claim any credit they can for the development of a vaccine for a virus they’ve largely approached as folly.
Still, it seems that, at least until Trump’s dismal administration comes to an end, help isn’t coming. Americans will be left to navigate an unprecedented upheaval with little support.