Trump Executive Order Uses COVID-19 as Excuse to Attack Public Health Protections

Statement by Dr. Kathleen Rest, Executive Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published May 20, 2020

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2020)—Citing the need to jump-start the economy, the White House is set to issue an executive order directing federal agencies to identify rules and standards to suspend or permanently roll back—a move that will undermine public safety and health, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Kathleen Rest, executive director of UCS.

“Issuing an executive order to undermine public safeguards in the middle of a public health emergency is politics at its worst.

“The administration is using a pandemic that has taken tens of thousands of lives as cover to rush through a pre-existing agenda. They are using this moment, and their rush to re-open the economy, to evade the democratic process and avoid public accountability. They’re exploiting a crisis to give a free pass to industry, which could adversely affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the products we use, and the workplace protections we need more than ever right now. This is especially egregious given the increasing evidence that air pollution exposure could be linked to high risk of COVID-19 mortality.

“The administration’s arguments for this rollback are deeply dishonest. It’s the pandemic, not public health protections, that have caused our economic crisis, and rolling back public safeguards won’t control COVID-19 or support people who are out of work. It’s telling that the administration is prioritizing industry’s wish list instead of dealing with the real problems we face.

“This executive order is the latest example in a long pattern of the administration putting favored industries ahead of the public interest. Decades of environmental and public health rules have come under attack. Pretending that this latest effort is a response to the COVID-19 crisis adds insult to injury.

“Eliminating public health protections will weaken, not strengthen, the United States over the long term. And vulnerable communities will face the greatest risks.”