President Donald Trump’s handling of the spread of COVID-19 has earned criticism from some who think the president has not acted swiftly enough to prevent the virus' spread. Though COVID-19 has caused a massive disruption to the United States unlike any epidemic in recent history, Trump’s handling of the virus has been contrasted with former President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola virus epidemic.
In 2014, Obama sought to reduce the spread of Ebola by, among other measures, utilizing the military to deploy both troops and medical personnel into West Africa to provide assistance and build treatment centers. Bina Venkataraman, who was the chief policy advisor to the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, said that there is a stark contrast in the way Trump has responded to COVID-19 compared to Obama.
“It’s hard to overstate the contrast. For one, you had a president who actually accepted and cultivated scientific advice,” Venkataraman said on Boston Public Radio Friday. “So, the fact that I was a policy advisor to a whole council of external scientists, technologists advising the president tells you something about how President Obama even structured getting advice from outsiders, being willing to accept the state of affairs.”
Venkataraman said that in handling COVID-19, Trump has acted too slowly, and is advocating policies such as a 30-day travel ban for foreign nationals who have recently been in the European Union that are not useful at this stage in the pandemic.
“He is talking about this virus as a foreign invader,” Venkataraman said. “He is using a travel ban at this stage in the epidemic where we already have community spread -- the virus is already here in the U.S. -- instead of talking about global operation to address the pandemic [and] thinking about ways we could collaborate with our allies to actually contain it in the multiple places in the world it is, so that we could think about better tracking it, understanding its mortality rate and seeing how it evolves and emerges over time.”
Venkataraman is currently the editorial page editor of The Boston Globe. She served as chief policy advisor to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under President Obama.