Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part column. The second part will appear on a future date.

America has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths, the most in the world, and that didn’t happen by accident; initial denial from the White House and their incompetence led to where we are today. It didn’t just die out from the summer heat and magically vanish like Trump hoped it would; as folks believed him for some reason and thought they could just ignore it, while the virus exponentially spread. As you now know it wasn’t a Dem hoax; we’re only in the infancy of COVID-19’s life-cycle, and we’re needlessly in deep. Regardless of the president’s having blindly already claimed victory? (Like Bush on the aircraft carrier; as the war they claimed would last only “six months,” still continues 17 years later; while we’ve wasted trillions of dollars on a fraudulent war that benefited no-one but arms-makers).

Until we have a vaccine — which normally takes at least five years to vet — the only tools we have to fight this virus, which is approximately 10 times more contagious than the flu, are isolation, hand-washing, masks, social distancing, strategic testing, quarantine and contact tracing. Which have proven successful in some Asian and European nations that competently reacted to the pandemic and all of their citizens cooperated with their nations’ strategic plan; thus, one has to learn to respect the virus and science, because ignorance is deadly. Our understanding of COVID-19 is evolving, which is why we need to proceed with caution, and schools are petri-dishes for viruses that children take home to their families, being the main carriers of viruses.

Had we locked down this country two weeks earlier we could’ve saved the lives of more than half the people who’ve died; and if DeSantis had followed CDC guidelines and waited until the curve trended downward for 14 days before starting to reopen the economy — which defies logic that he didn’t (encouraged by Trump) — we wouldn’t be suffering this soaring second spike. DeSantis said that infections have shifted toward the youth and young adults; OK, but he failed to explain that they’re taking it home to their families who in a week or two later will start dying from it, there’ll be another exponential explosion of cases, and the death rate will again rise, obviously, as scientists had warned.

Some nations contained it from the beginning — <300 South Koreans died — mostly by locking down early, hand-washing, wearing masks, social distancing, massive strategic testing, quarantine and contact tracing, which is an impossibility at this point in America due to the extent of the outbreak. Trump seems intent on tempting the virus; we’ll see how that works out for him? Thus our horrific death-toll can solely be blamed on the total incompetence and apathy of Trump and DeSantis; for in some nations, and in some American states, where they’ve intelligent leadership, they didn’t experience this avoidable holocaust (save California) — they listened to their scientists instead, as any reasoned, principled and sane person would do.

Trump claimed that his fight against COVID-19 made him a wartime president, but what if FDR had said, “let the states fight WWII on their own”? But now it’s clear that he’s not in the least interested in fighting this pandemic; it’s only a nuisance to him. Until Friday the White House hadn’t held a COVID update news conference since Trump’s last idiotic bombast where he sought research on injecting people with disinfectants, and he hadn’t met with his response team in nearly three weeks, nor will he let Dr. Fauci appear on CNN. For he has no empathy or compassion for all of the dying people — though he’ll pay it lip service — all he’s interested in is getting reelected. FDR was a principled leader; Trump doesn’t know what principled means, nor care, and can’t command a proper sentence without reading it off a teleprompter.

Mark Zembower is a Sebring resident. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.