The Politics of Lockdowns, Masks, and Vaccines

The Trump Administration and the Coronavirus

by Michael Haas (Author)
©2021 Monographs XIV, 210 Pages


The disastrous handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the United States calls out for an explanation of who is to blame for a disease that could have been contained but instead became an epidemic. Donald Trump, who plays so many roles in life, was unable to fathom how to deal with the problem, but others in his administration made serious mistakes as well. Readers will discover the scope of the errors in an entirely factual, chronological account from the first word about the outbreak to the last day of the Trump administration. The narrative begins by identifying 13 roles that Trump played as president. The discovery of Covid-19 is identified next. The Trump administration was unprepared to do the same and took inappropriate actions in the early stage, notably refusing to use a widely used test for 46 critical days. Congressional economic relief is also identified. States, forced to design their own programs due to federal inaction, then differed widely, resulting in a spread from the coasts to the heartland. Decisions to end lockdowns prematurely meant yet another surge. Trump promoted snake oil remedies, denigrated science and scientists, but wisely poured money into pharmaceutical firms to develop vaccines. People adversely affected are identified statistically. The book concludes by summarizing what each person and organization did to harm or help efforts to deal with Covid-19, leaving the final assessment to the reader who has absorbed all the facts during the Trump administration.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • 1 Trump’s Conception of the Coronavirus Problem
  • 2 Initial Capabilities of the United States
  • 3 Initial Actions of the Trump Administration
  • 4 Economic Relief
  • 5 State Actions, Personal Protective Equipment, Ventilators
  • 6 Back to Business
  • 7 Snake Oil Remedies
  • 8 Science Under Attack
  • 9 Promise of Medical Advances
  • 10 Trump Falls Ill
  • 11 Surges, Testing, Treatment Medicines, Vaccines
  • 12 Communities Affected
  • 13 Anyone to Blame or Praise?
  • Appendix A: What Is Social Darwinism?
  • Appendix B: Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and Dates Appointed
  • Index

←viii | ix→


When I was about five years old, my father brought me and my mom to Christmas parties each year at the location of his employment, WJR, within the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit. Each year I would come down with a new disease—Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, and finally Chickenpox. I was then confined to my bedroom while recovering and could not go to school until the school’s mandatory quarantine ended.

I can vividly recall lying in bed with measles, with an instrument in the room spewing fog. On one occasion, I felt that my body was rising above the room. But I recovered. The following year, no consideration was given to the danger of getting a new disease when the family went again to the WJR Christmas party. And I got sick again like everyone else.

Those were the days when vaccines were unavailable, and treatment at home was standard. The first of several vaccines for “childhood diseases” emerged in 1963—for measles. The vaccines for Mumps and Rubella were first used in 1971. The one for chickenpox did not come out until 1995.

←ix | x→

Born in 1945, Donald Trump’s early medical history is unclear, but the likelihood is that he also had all four “childhood diseases” before the vaccines emerged. Perhaps that is why he is known as a “germaphobe” (Lippman 2019). That he survived the diseases may have led to family praise that his genes were good. Evidently, he had no serious illnesses later in life, not even a case of the flu.

When President Trump was informed of the coronavirus in early 2020, he was told that the disease could be the major crisis of his presidency. He evidently thought otherwise.

My medical history, however, is quite different. When the news of the coronavirus emerged, I was concerned and soon began wearing masks while shopping in Hollywood and Studio City, California. When vaccines became available, I hunted for appointments on a California website. Each time I clicked to what appeared as open appointments, the next screen indicated that no time was available. My County Supervisor’s staff demonstrated no interest in resolving the issue. Then I got lucky. Tyrone Haas found an appointment for me at a supermarket 6.6 miles away in the San Fernando Valley. I got two shots by early March.

One day, email requests were sent from an editor of a journal published by the American Political Science Association to submit essays about the coronavirus. Rather than writing an academic paper, I embarked on a political history of the pandemic. The journal editor suggested finding another outlet. You are now reading the result.

One reason for responding to the invitation is that I had already chronicled Donald Trump’s handling of health issues during his presidency in my Donald Trump’s Hidden Agenda for America (2019). In that book I identified him as a Social Darwinist. Most Social Darwinists are Libertarians, but he subscribed to a variant that I call Triumphalism. Libertarian Social Darwinists want to limit the scope of government so that individuals will enjoy free lives. Triumphalists, however, want to use government to advance the fortunes of those who have demonstrated success in life. Both variants agree that government should have fewer regulations, but Triumphalists focus on regulations that stand in the way of making money while Libertarians oppose regulations that limit human choice. They both agree that government should not force ←x | xi→people to buy health insurance. Trump on at least three occasions tried to bankrupt Medicare and Social Security (Boak 2020) and undertook several measures to lessen the possibility that the federal government could cope with a pandemic, as will be identified below.

What follows identifies his manyfold conception of the problem in a rough chronological order. First of all, the initial capabilities of the United States to deal with the pandemic are identified. Then Trump’s initial actions are reviewed, notably in regard to shortages of equipment and supplies, as requested by governors. Next, he sought to return the country to normal business, but proposed snake oil remedies, and attacked science and scientists. Statistical evidence is presented on the communities and places most affected. Although many observers blame Trump for the disastrous course of events, I conclude with an assessment that identifies blunders in many quarters, leaving quite a burden for the administration of President Joe Biden, who assigned himself the role of ending the pandemic with comprehensive government action. In Appendix A, I explain more closely Social Darwinism, one of the main lenses used by Trump to evaluate options.

I want to thank journalists for their coverage of the situation, though some contradict one another. Since I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, reports from all three newspapers are quite numerous. Other sources are from the Internet. In most cases, the articles cited were read on the same or following day. Although it is customary to provide a date when references are accessed, that is only necessary when the website provides no date and thus is constantly updating the information. Internet citations without access dates were read in most cases on the day following their appearance.

Journalists Michael Lewis, Philip Rucker, Andy Slavitt, and Lauren Wright of the New Yorker should be congratulated for providing a lot of new information on civil society efforts in recent books. Yasmeen Abutaleb, Carol Leonnig, and Damian Paletta, and Philip Rucker, reveal good information about administration infighting. I am indebted to Tyrone Haas for recalling a Sixty Minutes episode. Extremely helpful comments have been provided by peer reviewers.

←xi | xii→

My style is academic and analytic, providing a crisp narrative of how the coronavirus was handled during the administration of President Donald J. Trump. Accordingly, I point out many things that journalists have missed, especially the inexplicable rejection of tests developed in other countries that could have been imported in mid-January to nip the virus in the bud.

I do not seek to make judgments. Readers should make up their own minds based on facts rather than prejudices. The book aims to be an outline of the most important developments in regard to the coronavirus outbreak during an administration now past history.

Michael Haas


XIV, 210
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XIV, 210 pp., 5 tables.

Biographical notes

Michael Haas (Author)

Michael Haas, Ph.D. from Stanford University in political science, has authored 60 books and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of human rights. He has taught at Northwestern, Purdue, the University of Hawai‘i, and the University of London.


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226 pages