Originally published at Project-Syndicate | April 3, 2020
Recently, a reporter at the daily White House coronavirus briefing asked US President Donald Trump what he would say to his fearful fellow citizens.
Here is what America still needs to hear from its leader.
“My fellow citizens, this is a terrible time for our country and for the world. We are in the midst of a brutal war as challenging as any that humankind has fought. But this fight is not between countries. It is between human civilization and a virus that threatens to upend it.
“COVID-19 is deadly. It is not to be taken lightly, even if you are young and healthy. I have heard comments dismissing the danger it poses – this virus should not be underestimated. It is a real threat not just to your life, but also to your loved ones.
“But be assured, we will defeat it. Just as we have faced down lethal health threats before, from polio to SARS, we will come through this dark period and return to a better way of life.
“From this day forward, I am committing every available resource at the US government’s disposal to ensure that everyone in America receives the medical care they need. Everyone is precious. We will not trade one life for another, nor will we leave anyone behind.
“Let me repeat: We will leave no one behind.
“In 1961, President John F. Kennedy used his inaugural address to pledge this country to ‘bear any burden … in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’ Sixty years later, it is fitting that we re-commit to the same lofty goal.
“We should have been more prepared for this pandemic. When we get through the immediate crisis, we will make the necessary changes to ensure we are never caught off guard again.
“Here is what your government is doing now. First, we are mobilizing the full might of the private sector. Exercising my authority under the Defense Production Act of 1950, I have ordered our pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and textile companies to produce 300 million COVID-19 tests, one million ventilators, and enough personal protective equipment for 20 million health-care workers.
“Second, I have ordered that all military and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals be made available for COVID-19 patients.
“Third, the Army Corps of Engineers is building temporary hospitals in the country’s 50 largest cities. We will have about 200,000 new hospital beds ready within a month, and more than one million new beds just a few months after that. We will double our nation’s hospital capacity.
“Fourth, all military medical professionals not engaged in urgent tasks will be assigned to support civilian medical staff.
“Fifth, I have called up specialized military reserve units – including engineer battalions, chemical-biological response units, and other relevant groups – to oversee testing sites in every county that has more than a minimal number of cases. The same mobilization force will also oversee testing in every major city (in partnership with local authorities), as well as in every transportation hub of towns with more than 20,000 people.
“Sixth, I have ordered the US Navy to deploy every available amphibious vessel, aircraft carrier, hospital ship, and support vessel to the harbors of our major coastal cities. Each of these is equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities.
“To operationalize these plans, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will lead the military’s efforts, in partnership with the National Guard.
“We thank our selfless military personnel for their help. We also thank our church and community leaders, non-profits, and ordinary citizens, who together are consoling the bereaved, providing emotional and mental support for those struggling to cope, and pitching in to make meals and deliver food to the elderly, the indigent, and others in need. You are the backbone of this country.
“And we have your back. Beginning now, every American will receive free testing and free treatment for COVID-19. Medicare will be made available to everyone who lacks health insurance.
“But we must do more. As of tonight, I have asked governors in each state to institute a uniform ‘shelter in place’ order for all citizens, except those required for essential services. This will last until May 1, at which point we will evaluate whether the restrictions should be extended.
“There is a lot that we don’t know about this virus. But we do know that it cannot spread if we do not come into contact with one another. Until now, states and communities have met the pandemic with a patchwork of rules. But, only by coming together can we prevent the virus from leaping to new areas. Legions of health-care professionals are putting their lives on the line for us; we owe it to them to do our part, too. Accordingly, all domestic flights will cease until May 1, except those carrying patients, medical professionals, or other essential personnel and equipment.
“Our best scientists tell us that the rate of infection will peak over the next few months. It is possible that hundreds of thousands of us will perish before this is over, and that many of us will witness the death of a loved one. Our collective spirit will be tested like never before. We will bend. But we must not – and will not – break.
“Hope is like a muscle – we must exercise it or it will wither. As difficult as these coming days will be, each of us must find a silver lining and actively encourage hope. Embrace your family if you are sheltering with them, and call them daily if you are not. Call your friends, too. Say the things you might have held back before. Play games and music, read, write, laugh. Smile. Love.
“Once we have overcome the immediate crisis, we will rebuild our economy and our communities. And once again: We will leave no one behind.
“Finally, let me say one more thing to our brothers and sisters in other countries. We may have our differences, but today we are as one. We are all facing the same enemy. This virus is not the product of any one country, and defeating it will require contributions from all of us.
“As we face the loss of friends, family, and neighbors in the months ahead, we should bear in mind the immortal wisdom offered in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. We should “here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’”