Trump’s health secretary hits the road, not to virus hot spots but to Trump swing states

Trump’s health secretary hits the road, not to virus hot spots but to Trump swing states

The whole goddamned lot of Donald Trump’s crew needs to be impeached, including Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar. He’s been traveling around the country since April, but not to respond to the raging pandemic. He’s been going, Politico reports, “to key battlegrounds in the 2020 campaign: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Maine and North Carolina, as well as two trips apiece to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” Nine of his 11 trips were to these states, and one of the other two was to Buffalo, New York, “hometown of a top aide who recently joined the department at Trump’s request and personally arranged Azar’s visit to the city.” The final one was to Boston, the primary media market for New Hampshire, yet another battleground 2020 state.

He wasn’t out there fact-finding, either. He was out there stumping for Trump and arguing for reopening. “We’ve got so much testing capacity here in the country now thanks to the president building this unprecedented, historically unprecedented testing system,” he said in Florida on May 22. None of which was true, by the way. Within a matter of weeks the administration announced that it would be ending support and funding for testing in five states as of June 30, including in Texas, which was already seeing a surge in cases.

In Atlanta on June 16, Azar told a local television station: “What we’re seeing in places like Georgia or other parts around the country is as we reopen, people can get back connected to work, school, to summer camp to health care in ways that are safe.” What we’re seeing in places like Georgia two weeks later is this: “Georgia Breaks Single-Day Coronavirus Record For Second Day in A Row.” That was 2,946 new confirmed cases on July 1, following a report of 2,225 new cases on June 30. As of July 1, the state had 1,570 coronavirus patients hospitalized, more than at any other point in the pandemic. Oh, and this from Azar’s Atlanta visit: “[T]he health secretary also dismissed recent coronavirus spikes around the nation as the product of more testing, the station reported, a claim that public health experts have subsequently debunked.”

“This shows the president’s priorities,” Andy Slavitt, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, told Politico. “I’d like to see the members of the task force dutifully working on and reporting on this crisis or if they travel, going to hospitals in Arizona, Texas, and Florida rather than Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” Another Obama official, Leslie Dach, senior counselor to former HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, called out how inappropriate these obviously political trips are. “That kind of travel was not considered or talked about in the time I was there,” she said, adding that Burwell was “tethered to her desk” during the Ebola and Zika public-health crises.

But here’s Azar on June 11, in Boston on a radio show being broadcast into New Hampshire: “That’s why I’m coming up to Boston, and I’m traveling around the country, is to get the message out that thanks to President Trump’s historic response to this crisis and work with our governors, we need to reopen. […] We have the tools to do it.” If they have the tools, they sure as hell aren’t deploying them in service of curbing this crisis.

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