By Robert A. Vella
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is now about 573,000 with nearly 23,000 deaths. Globally, the numbers are about 1.9 million and near 118,000 respectively.
Trump versus reality
President Trump continues to prioritize his own political self-interest over the health of Americans who are struggling to cope with this unprecedented national emergency.
With millions of Americans locked down at home and out of work, President Trump asserted on Monday his authority to reopen the country at a time of his choosing, although questions remain over the limits of his power because he is not the one who shut it down.
Over the past month, Trump has been an on-and-off-again supporter of social-distancing steps to slow the pandemic. But he has not imposed such measures on the whole country — and probably could not, except by declaring martial law. He has advocated following CDC guidelines about limiting gatherings and social contact, washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But steps such as closing schools, restaurants, theaters and shops have been taken by state or local officials, or by businesses themselves.
On Sunday, Politico reported that the White House still had no roadmap of how to restart the economy. The outlet said that while they were seeking private business leaders for a second task force devoted to the economy they were struggling to finalize the list because “not all companies wanted to participate, said a handful of lobbyists, because some wanted to keep a low profile after Trump got into public spats with corporate giants like 3M over the production and sale of medical masks.”
Trump does have the power of the bully pulpit because his daily briefings on the virus reach millions who still give him high marks for his response to the pandemic. There’s little reason to doubt that if Trump began broadcasting every day that it was time for Americans to return to their normal life, millions would heed his advice. But in jurisdictions where a governor or mayor had put restrictions in place, tweets or statements from Trump would not supersede those orders.
If the death toll continues to tick up and horror stories about churches, families and neighborhoods stricken by the virus spread, how eager will Americans be to get back to normal?
The director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that in order for the country to reopen, swift testing for people who have the virus and for people who might be immune to the virus will need to be available.
Robert R. Redfield said on the “TODAY” show that early case identification of the virus will allow for swift isolation and contact tracing that will be needed before social distancing guidelines are loosened.He also said testing for people who are already immune will provide even “greater confidence” in communities, “particularly in the health care setting.”
This afternoon, Wisconsin will announce the results of last Tuesday’s controversial primary election in which Republican state legislators and conservative judges on the state and U.S. supreme courts overturned the governor’s attempt to delay and extend the vote in response to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday, a meeting of the Milwaukee Board of Elections commissioners was hacked into as it discussed how to deal with hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots which were never delivered to voters by the Post Office (see: Hackers hijack Zoom meeting on Milwaukee absentee ballots). Meanwhile, GOP leaders are moving forward with vote-by-mail solutions in other states even though President Trump and his allies want to exclude that option from Democratic voters.
“Voting by mail is an easy, convenient and secure way to cast your ballot,” read a mail piece the Republican National Committee distributed across the Keystone State. “Return the attached official Republican Party mail-in ballot application to avoid lines and protect yourself from large crowds on Election Day.”
Despite the president’s rhetoric, state party leaders across the country are aggressively urging their voters to cast ballots by mail, GOP officials confirm. In addition, Republican officeholders in at least 16 states that do not have all-mail elections are encouraging people to vote absentee during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a tally by The Washington Post.
Putin attacks America
Finally, Trump’s Russian buddy Vladimir Putin is exploiting the pandemic to attack America’s medical expertise.
On Feb. 3, soon after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global health emergency, an obscure Twitter account in Moscow began retweeting an American blog. It said the pathogen was a germ weapon designed to incapacitate and kill. The headline called the evidence “irrefutable” even though top scientists had already debunked that claim and declared the novel virus to be natural.
As the pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.