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Mourners attend the burial of a loved one who died of Covid-19 on June 20, 2020. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

'Our Leadership Has Failed Us': With Trump at Helm, 1/5 of One Million Global Covid-19 Deaths Have Been in US

Though Americans account for just over 4% of the global population, they represent 20% of the "mind-numbing figure."

Julia Conley

As the globe marked what the United Nations called an "agonizing milestone" Tuesday, with over one million deaths from Covid-19 recorded worldwide, critics of U.S. President Donald Trump pointed out that a disproportionate number of those deaths have been in the United States amid Trump's mismanagement of the crisis.

With more than 204,000 deaths from the disease, one-fifth of all Covid-19 deaths have been in the United States, though Americans make up just 4.25% of the world population. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the global community to recognize that the people who have died of the disease caused by the coronavirus since it was first detected late last year "were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues."

"Responsible leadership matters. Science matters. Cooperation matters—and misinformation kills. As we remember so many lives lost, let us never forget that our future rests on solidarity —as people united and as united nations."
—Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General

One million deaths is "a mind-numbing figure," Guterres said in a statement calling for governments to turn to science, not misinformation, to combat the pandemic. "Yet we must never lose sight of each and every individual life." 

Guterres' statement contrasted sharply with Trump's recent remarks about the Covid-19 death toll. Last week, the president told a crowd of his supporters at a rally in Ohio that the coronavirus affects "virtually nobody" and dismissed those who have died as "elderly people with heart problems and other problems."

The president has gone to great lengths to downplay the pandemic since first being warned of the coronavirus in January. Earlier this month, veteran journalist Bob Woodward released audio tapes from February and March in which Trump told him the coronavirus was "deadly stuff," much more virulent than influenza, affects "not just older people" but "plenty of young people" as well, and was spread "through the air."

Despite Trump's early understanding of the seriousness of the threat to Americans' lives, he has spent eight months falsely telling his constituents that the disease will "disappear" or "fade away" and that 99% of cases are "totally harmless," and refusing to follow public health guidelines by wearing a face covering in public.

"People will continue to die needlessly because other people couldn't be bothered to take the threat seriously," wrote Elie Mystal at The Nation last month. "Nobody will pay for these senseless deaths. Nobody will go to jail because they didn't wear a mask and infected somebody who had a preexisting condition. No prosecutor is going to be able to make a 'reckless homicide' charge stick, because all a would-be defendant has to do is say, 'I was just listening to the president of the United States.'"

The president and his administration officials have also insisted that schools reopen fully while dismissing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing measures as "very tough and expensive"; claimed the FDA is intentionally keeping progress towards a vaccine from the public in order to harm his reelection chances and pressured the agency to give approval for untested treatments; and seized PPE shipments while claiming the federal government was not responsible for making sure healthcare workers had supplies they needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals.   

"Our leadership has failed us," tweeted writer and activist Nick Jack Pappas, who was echoed by other Trump critics and public health experts on social media. 

Worldwide, Brazil and India have recorded the second- and third-highest numbers of Covid deaths. Like Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the coronavirus—despite contracting the disease himself—and has flouted social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the global death toll could double to two million before a safe and effective vaccine is found. 

"The real question is are we prepared, collectively, to do what it takes to avoid that number," said Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, at a press briefing on Friday. "Are we prepared to fully engage in the surveillance and testing and tracing, in managing our own risks at society and community level?" 

Guterres called on the global community to "learn from the mistakes" made so far.

"Responsible leadership matters. Science matters. Cooperation matters—and misinformation kills," Guterres said Monday. "As we remember so many lives lost, let us never forget that our future rests on solidarity —as people united and as united nations."

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