A digital billboard in New York City’s Times Square targeting President Donald Trump’s early inaction on coronavirus reached a grave milestone on Wednesday, as it ticked over to an estimated 50,000 preventable deaths.
The “Trump Death Clock” projects a running count of deaths, which according to two leading epidemiologists, could have been avoided had social distancing measures been implemented earlier.
Eugene Jarecki, the Emmy and Peabody award-winning director behind political documentaries, such as “Why We Fight” and “The House I Live In” and the sign’s creator, said the counter was in the same “symbolic spirit” as the National Debt Clock, which already hangs in the city. The Death Clock, he said, measures “the cost in human lives of President Trump and his team’s reckless handling of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Epidemiologists Dr. Britta L. Jewell and Nicolas P. Jewell estimated a 60% reduction in deaths had mitigation measures been enacted on March 9. Although experts sounded the alarm as early as January, Trump was still downplaying the coronavirus at the end of February and on the March 9 milestone he was comparing it with “the common flu.”
On Wednesday, as the U.S. approached 85,000 reported deaths, the clock displayed an estimate of more than 50,700 lives that could have been saved. Jarecki said he hoped the numbers will speak for themselves.
“Reports show that as early as January, the president was advised by both his own experts and the intelligence services of the need for urgent mitigation measures against the spread of the virus,” Jarecki wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. “Instead, he engaged in petty political feuds and pollyannish predictions minimizing its significance. Finally, on March 16, he reversed his previously dismissive stance and announced ‘new guidelines for every American to follow.’”
But by that time, Jarecki wrote, it was too late. The U.S. was already leading the world in its rate of infection and has since tallied many more deaths than any other country.
Jarecki said that with the pandemic ongoing, he hopes “the lives already unnecessarily lost demand we seek more responsible crisis leadership.”
“Just as the names of fallen soldiers are etched on memorials to remind us of the cost of war, quantifying the lives lost to the president’s delayed coronavirus response would serve a vital public function,” he added.
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