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Ever-Feckless Trump Is Putting Healthcare Workers in Grave Danger
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Ever-Feckless Trump Is Putting Healthcare Workers in Grave Danger

Doctors and Nurses Aren’t Getting the Equipment

They Need to Fight the Deadly COVID-19 Contagion

David Cay Johnston

Donald Trump’s cavalier handshaking, nose-picking and other dangerous behaviors aren’t limited to himself and his circle in the time of the novel coronavirus.

Team Trump is openly hostile to the health and welfare of workers on the front lines in containing the deadly COVID-19.

Hospital workers, airport screeners and others aren’t just caving in like spineless Trump toadies bowing to their Great Leader.

Nurses Doubt It

Trump & Co. won’t even take an obvious step to quickly obtain safety gear.

An acute shortage of N95 respirator masks prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend a looser, less effective surgical mask.

We need to be as protective as possible of healthcare workers because unless contained the pandemic will explode, overwhelming our hospitals.

The CDC says it is trying to cope with a shortage of proper safety gear for health professionals. It says recommending less safe facemasks is part of a “series of strategies or options to optimize supplies” of N95s.

Nurses aren’t buying that solution.

ACTION BOX/What you can do about it

Email the Centers for Disease Control and tell them to demand authority to seize construction, milling pipeline and industry stocks of N95 respirators. The email form is here.

Send the same message to the White House.

Tell your representative and senators by calling 202-224-3121. Locate the name of your representatives in the box with the map here.


Surgical face masks “do not protect the wearer from exposure because there’s not a seal around the face,” said Lisa Baum. She is an Occupational Health and Safety representative for the New York State Nurses Association.

“An N-95 respirator is made from different material, which has more filtering. And you have to be fit-tested to wear it to make sure you have a good seal…,” she said.

Pat Kane, the nurse association executive director, said the government should look into other stocks of N95s.

Construction Companies

First place to look: construction companies and industrial operations with deadly dust. Five million Americans workers wear respirator masks every day, according to the federal Department of Labor.

We need to be as protective as possible of healthcare workers because unless contained the pandemic will explode, overwhelming our hospitals.

One in five healthcare professionals in Italy’s Lombardy region were infected since February and some died, the British medical journal Lancet reports.

Hospitals in Los Angeles locked up masks because many people, including patients, were randomly taking them.

Wearing a surgical mask instead of a respirator mask could mean the difference between getting sick or staying healthy to treat others. It also could mean life or death, both for older doctors, nurses and others as well as patients.

Not Just Nurses

Federal prison workers, law enforcement agencies and uniformed Transportation Safety Administration staff are among the federal workers at risk just from doing their jobs.

Consider the plight of airport screeners. The Trump administration refuses to provide airport screeners with proper health safety equipment. That concern that took on added urgency when four screeners at the San Jose airport tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Then another tested positive in Orlando. It is certain many more are or will be infected.

On March 10 the union representing TSA officers asked for N95 masks for screeners. David Pekoske, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral and Trump’s Transportation Services Administration boss, said no. The screeners have no obvious leverage because they lack full collective bargaining rights. A House-passed bill granting these basic worker rights languishes in the Senate.

Trump Rates 0

This crisis shows Trump would never have been hired as a CEO or even junior executive based on the standards Corporate America uses to find talent.

Korn-Ferry, the consulting firm that says it has judged 70 million executives, accesses six skills and behaviors for crisis management:

  1. Anticipate– what lies ahead
  2. Navigate–course correct in real-time
  3. Communicate–continually
  4. Listen–to what you don’t want to hear
  5. Learn–from experience to apply in the future
  6. Lead–improve yourself to elevate others

Trump rates 0. He is actively hostile to listening to what he does not want to hear. That is what is putting front-line workers at risk and, in turn, anyone who develops the novel coronavirus.


March 16, 2020