On Wednesday, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an editorial condemning the U.S. political administration for its response to COVID-19 and calling for new leadership. The move comes less than a month before the November 3rd U.S. election and while unusual, NEJM is not the first scientific journal to weigh in on the current climate.

Last month Scientific American published an editorial throwing support behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the first such endorsement made by the publication in its 175-year history.

The NEMJ editorial, titled “Dying in leadership a vacuum,” does not endorse a candidate nor does it specifically mention the president. Still, the piece paints a scathing picture of the Trump administration, calling the “magnitude” of its failures to address COVID-19 “astonishing”:


Let’s be clear about the cost of not taking even simple measures. An outbreak that has disproportionately affected communities of colour has exacerbated the tensions associated with inequality. Many of our children are missing school at critical times in their social and intellectual development. The hard work of health care professionals, who have put their lives on the line, has not been used wisely. Our current leadership takes pride in the economy, but while most of the world has opened up to some extent, the United States still suffers from disease rates that have prevented many businesses from reopening, with a resultant loss of hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs. And more than 200,000 Americans have died. 

The editorial is collectively signed by all NEMJ editors, a rarity, according to editor-in-chief Dr. Eric Rubin. Since the journal began publication in 1812 there have only been four other collectively-signed op-eds CNN reports: a piece about contraception, an obituary of a former editor-in-chief, an editorial about standard-of-care research, all in 2014, and a 2019 editorial about abortion.

RELATED: Here’s the science behind why some people ignore warnings during a pandemic

In the latest piece NEMJ argues the pandemic has created a “test of leadership” that current leaders have “failed”:

“They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy,” reads an excerpt.

“COVID-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly.”

At the time of this writing COVID-19 has killed more than 200,000 Americans and infected more than 7.5 million people across the U.S.

“The reason we’ve never published an editorial about elections is we’re not a political journal and I don’t think that we want to be a political journal — but the issue here is around fact, not around opinion,” Dr. Rubin tells CNN.

“There have been many mistakes made that were not only foolish but reckless and I think we want people to realize that there are truths here, not just opinions.”

“For example, masks work. Social distancing works. Quarantine and isolation work. They’re not opinions.”

Read the full editorial here.

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