John Colson: Trump triples-down on coronavirus fantasies
Hit & Run
A month ago, as the U.S. passed 3 million cases on July 8, it became crystal clear that not only had our president had failed us on two different occasions already — as he tried to shout down the novel coronavirus pandemic and then hoped it would magically disappear — but that he was on track for his third pandemic failure.
First out of the gate, he was briefed on the likelihood of the coming plague by his National Security Advisor as early as January, but chose to ignore the news and do nothing.
The result, as all but his most fervently blind backers can clearly see, was a sudden, massive uptick in virus statistics, including the appearance of “hot spots” around the nation and the deaths of thousands who might otherwise have lived.
Second, he pushed the pedal on reopening the national economy, aided by a panoply of mostly Republican governors, which resulted in huge spikes of infections around the United States. Medical experts predicted that, unlike the fulminating predictions from the White House, we could expect a similar spike in deaths in the coming weeks and months.
And then Trump breathlessly moved toward his third abject failure at protecting Americans from the depredations of COVID-19, as he insisted that schools be opened for the fall term even as the pandemic virus surged in more than half of U.S states.
Well, guess what? The medical experts and scientists were right.
The U.S. just this week passed the 5 million mark for confirmed COVID-19 cases, and more than 160,000 deaths from the disease, and we still are nowhere near understanding exactly how prevalent the coronavirus is throughout the country.
We also have no idea what kind of havoc we might face if we follow Trump’s lead and simply reopen our schools so that parents can get back to work.
That’s because testing for the virus has become a political football and remains at a globally low level, no matter how many times the Republican hierarchy tries to tell us we’re doing better than any other country at testing for and controlling this ugly disease.
In fact, the news recently has shown how our perpetually confused president is woefully under-informed about such simple facts as how many people already have died from the disease.
In an interview with the Axios news outlet last week, Trump got into a heated debate with interviewer Jonathan Swan about that very topic.
Trump insisted, of course, that everything is just fine, the U.S. is not an international laughing stock due to its bungled coronavirus response, and he is doing a wonderful job of protecting our nation from the disease.
Our president also insisted that the death rate is lower than is generally believed, but it turned out he was quoting from talking points that only dealt with deaths as a proportion of known cases, rather than deaths as a proportion of the general population, which is a generally-accepted way of looking at the issue.
In fact, it is the latter statistical approach that shows the U.S. is far worse off than other countries in dealing with the pandemic (New Zealand appears to have effectively contained the viral outbreak, with no new cases in more than 100 days), a point that Swan tried to make to Trump during the interview.
And Trump’s response?
“You can’t do that,” he protested to the interviewer, trying to keep to the kind of statistical manipulations that can keep the public confused about, well, nearly everything.
He also made it abundantly clear that he does not understand the basic issue of how badly we are faring in the fight against COVID-19.
Just to be clear, as of Aug. 9 there were more than 19.8 million cases reported worldwide as well as 731,570 deaths (according to a count kept by Wikipedia), and of that number the U.S. had reported slightly more than 5 million cases and 162,481 deaths.
The closest comparable statistics came from Brazil, with just over 3 million cases and 101,481 deaths.
Canada, by the way, had reported 119,566 cases and 8,981 deaths.
Those are raw numbers, not percentages of this or that, or any other kind of massaging by partisan efforts to downplay the awful truth and hide the facts.
But Trump is crudely adept at hiding from the truth, and at playing games with numbers to suit himself and give a boost to his particular brand of transactional corruption.
He also is given cover by his GOP party elite, which has been completely infected by what we now call Trumpism, a kind of viral allegory in itself.
Oh, and the much-ballyhooed vaccine that will save us all, and that The Donald says should be ready to go by January 2021?
The scientists tell us that is another fantasy, and a reliable vaccine is much farther off.
But we don’t have to believe them, do we? Because the president says it just ain’t so.
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