Editorial: Put politics aside in virus response

The Detroit News

Both President Donald Trump and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday called for precautions in containing the spread of COVID-19, which has now reached pandemic status. It is responsible for leaders to be taking these steps. Given the seriousness of the virus, this isn’t the time for divisiveness. Officials need to put political differences aside and work together.

In a nationally televised address, Trump laid out a number of proposals to combat the virus and mitigate its effects. Last week, he signed an $8.3 billion spending bill to help develop a vaccine and contain COVID-19.

President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday in Washington.

Hours before Trump’s announcement, Whitmer addressed the public to offer state-wide recommendations. She asked communities to cancel or postpone all large gatherings, use remote work and learning options when possible and limit all non-essential travel work.

At this point, both leaders have done their best to get ahead of the crisis. And while some of the measures may seem over the top, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The president announced a 30-day ban on all travel from Europe to the U.S., while providing exemptions for Americans and citizens of the United Nations. That ban goes into effect tonight at midnight. 

He’ll be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend financial relief to workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others who are infected. 

Trump also instructed the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest economic loans in affected states to help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus. He asked Congress for $50 billion to make this happen.

The president also called on Congress to provide payroll tax relief to all Americans to keep the economy from falling into recession. That’s a proposal that should be considered carefully, given that Social Security and Medicare already face funding shortfalls. 

There may be legitimate objections to Trump’s plans, but they should not be rooted in partisanship. This is the time for politicians to come together and project confidence that America has this under control. Trump’s opponents should check their knee-jerk reaction to reject and criticize everything that comes out of his mouth. 

There’s no room for political opportunism. Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, who has criticized Trump’s response, announced Wednesday the formation of his own coronavirus committee. Biden is not president. He’s free to talk about what he’d do if he were to become president, but this committee seems like meddling that risks undermining the administration’s efforts and sends mixed messages to the public. 

Trump urged the nation to “put politics aside, stop the partisanship and unify together as one nation and one family.” He must live by his own words. The president should quarantine his name-calling, divisive tweets and project mature leadership.

Trump and Whitmer have both had confrontational relationships with their legislative bodies. Now, Republicans and Democrats must set that aside to speak in a unified voice to Americans who need to have confidence that their leaders can handle this crisis.