The Daily News
Editor’s note: The following letter is addressed to U.S. Rep. John Joyce.
Dear Dr. John Joyce:
Thank you for your recent contribution to The Daily News, “America must hold China accountable for coronavirus.” Dr. Joyce, some of us feel that the word “partly” might have been inserted between “China” and “accountable,” as I hope to show. As someone who has lived through the administrations of 14 presidents, I have become alarmed at the actions of the Trump White House and can’t help wondering how you, with your medical degree in dermatology and 25 years of successful practice, are sleeping these days.
Dr. Joyce, the week your statistics-free article appeared, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. reached 74,000 out of 1.2 million cases — the largest totals in the world. At the same time, according to the Washington Post, the president continues to dismiss the advice of health professionals, saying to reporters Wednesday, “In a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.” Thursday he told reporters testing was “overrated.” Mr. Trump has consistently sidelined appearances of world-class medical professionals in his happy-talk assessments of “opening up the country,” against the recommendations of disciplined doctors like yourself who, skilled in critical thinking, are the real patriots in our “war” against the pandemic. And yet you write, “By withholding critical information... the Chinese government cost the United States valuable time and opportunities to save American lives.” When the president demoted Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, who had received a job performance review of outstanding, but whose warnings about using untested medications in the treatment of COVID-19 irritated Mr. Trump, was he acting in the country’s best interests? Mr. Trump is not only disrespectful of, but consistently intimidated by what he doesn’t understand, placing the nation’s health at risk. Dr. Joyce, how are you sleeping when world-class health professionals are the victims of such tiny-minded presidential vendettas?
Dr. Joyce, where do you stand with regard to the need for further testing as has been endorsed by every major national public health organization the President Trump continues to flout? Friday a conservative-physician, Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas), said this during a House committee meeting: “We can’t continue to pump federal dollars and print federal dollars to keep the economy afloat if we’re not allowing the engine of the economy to spin again. But we can’t do that without adequate testing.” He was backed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R. Mo.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), both of whom feel our testing is inadequate and who demonstrate their concern has crossed party lines. On the same day, President Trump decried the need for ramping up testing in spite of one of Mr. Pence’s aides, Katie Miller, wife of Steven Miller, testing positive. Said one former security official familiar with White House security planning during past administrations, “If he backtracks now and starts wearing a mask, it will contradict the red meat he’s been feeding to his base constantly. This is the first health crisis that has been politicized.” Dr. Joyce, is any of this information a cause for concern to a man whose adult professional life has been dedicated to the code you swore to uphold, “Do no harm?” Are you and other physician/politicians equally fearful of presidential tweets as you are of the coronavirus?
Dr Joyce, as one of your constituents, I doubt that I’ll live long enough to see the reversal of much of this president’s ignorance-based legislation you so consistently champion. No one alive has witnessed a national leader so disrespectful toward science in general and the environment in particular, but I find it truly appalling that President Trump is directly responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of American citizens because of his ill-advised dismissal of warnings as early as January about the devastating potential of the coronavirus as shown by evidence-based reporting. Remember, “It will just go away”? and “I bear no responsibility” — a sentence that would fit tidily on more than one gravestone. How was it less than galling to a medical professional Mr. Trump award Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union Address? Mr. Limbaugh, of all people, who, with science-bashing obstinacy, advised millions of his listeners contrary to the warnings of virtually every highly qualified health professional, that the coronavirus “... is just the common cold, folks!” And the same disgrace can be laid at the feet of Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News minions touting the virus 24 hours a day for weeks as “... a Democratic hoax, after the failure to oust Mr. Trump through impeachment.” Do you sleep well, Dr. Joyce, knowing the disregard for your profession being meted out by Mr. Trump and his propagandist allies to whom you are beholden?
Dr. Joyce, when I taught at Juniata College, some of the students who impressed me most were the pre-med majors. In addition to their academic excellence, I admired their keen attention spans and problem-solving zeal, as well as how they authenticated the poet Wallace Stevens’s dictum: “Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.” At the time, I gave no thought to the possibility of one day owing my life to their research or the careful dedication of others like them, and now, as a diabetic geezer taking Metformin and Glipizide every day, I realize I am just one of millions of human beings whose prescription medications are the result of highly dedicated professionals, some of whom I may have had in class. Their undeterred curiosity, lab work and imaginations sometime run them up one blind alley and down a dozen others in their quest to help people pursue better quality lives, while often helping others just to stay alive. Teaching pre-med students led me to have enhanced respect for anyone who pursues and practices the healing arts.
Whenever I learn of anyone in a political leadership role ignoring or dismissing medical professionals for whatever cockamamie reason may benefit them personally, I am insulted on behalf of those who know better — decent people who stay up late and get up early as so many health professionals, nurses and doctors are doing now at the risk of shortening their lives through exposure to viral nasties, anxiety and overwork. Health professionals are under unimaginable stress every day and night while we momentarily healthy citizens count the blessings that keep us on the sunny side of the sod. To date, President Trump has never permitted himself to be seen wearing a mask. (Vice President Pence had to be humiliated into putting one on after being the only mask-less person in his entourage at the Mayo Clinic.) Mr. Trump has not made one single, sincere, humane, grateful acknowledgement of front-line medical professionals or those whose research may one day bring a successful vaccine for COVID-19. What would that take? An iota of common decency? Maybe. Forget empathy. Where do you stand on these issues, Dr. Joyce? Are you in it for a penny and for a pound? And how are you sleeping?
Thank you for your service, sir, and sleep well.