By Robert A. Vella
In a private phone conversation on Friday, President Trump told New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the diagnostic testing urged by medical experts as necessary to safely reopen the economy is “too hard” and “too complicated” for him to do in a national response to the coronavirus pandemic. Later, in his daily propaganda session press conference, he told the American people the exact opposite (see: Trump team pledges adequate testing to reopen, despite reports of shortages). As we shall see in this post, Trump’s blatant lying and refusal to mobilize the federal government to combat COVID-19 clearly reveals a president who is obsessed with his political interests no matter how many Americans suffer and die as a result.
First of all, the U.S. has tested (as of yesterday) only 10,871 per million people (see: COVID-19 testing). That’s about 1.1% of the nation’s population which puts the U.S. way down at 26th on the list of countries. Furthermore, new research on antibody testing in California and Massachusetts indicates that the actual number of infections is between 2.5% and 4% of the population. Nationwide, that would extrapolate to a figure between 8.3 million and 13.2 million which is many times greater than the latest confirmed number of cases (722,372). Therefore, the level of testing in the U.S. is nowhere near what is necessary to safely reopen the economy by easing “stay at home” restrictions.
Secondly, Trump’s partisan attacks against states (both Democratic and Republican controlled) employing such restrictions (which is inciting right-wing extremists to possibly commit acts of domestic terrorism), his rhetoric directed against the World Health Organization (which contradicts his administration’s continuing cooperation with the WHO), and his recent buddying-up again with Russian strongman and U.S. adversary Vladimir Putin, are all part of his political strategy to deflect blame for the crisis onto others and to confuse the public with disinformation. It is consistent with Trump’s modus operandi as president; but, regardless of how effective he sees this strategy (i.e. he may feel that he has no other choice), it is definitely not working. As I’ve detailed many times on this blog, the American people are just not buying his bullshit.
Here’s today’s news:
Friday brought no shortage of pandemic news: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump publicly quarreled over coronavirus testing, China blamed a rising death toll on hospital errors, and stocks rebounded amid reports of possible emerging treatments for the virus.
After the president criticized Cuomo in a tweet for “complaining,” Cuomo charged that the president “doesn’t want to help on testing.”
“(Trump) said 11 times, ‘I don’t want to get involved in testing – it’s too hard, it’s too complicated,'” Cuomo said. “I know its too complicated, (he told Trump) that’s why we need you to help.”
A critical question in the path towards the future is how many people actually have protective novel coronavirus antibodies and possible immunity? Two research teams in California — backed by armies of dedicated volunteers — set out to answer this very question and the first set of results are in.
The first large-scale community test of 3,300 people in Santa Clara County found that 2.5 to 4.2% of those tested were positive for antibodies — a number suggesting a far higher past infection rate than the official count.
Based on the initial data, researchers estimate that the range of people who may have had the virus to be between 48,000 and 81,000 in the county of 2 million — as opposed to the approximately 1,000 in the county’s official tally at the time the samples were taken.
When President Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” on Friday morning, some of his most fervent supporters in far-right communities — including those who have agitated for violent insurrection — heard a call to arms.
The tweet was one of three sent from the president’s account, along with “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Trump’s tweets came after small protests by Trump supporters broke out in a handful of states, many of which were fueled by anti-vaccination and anti-government groups. Anti-government sentiment has percolated among far-right extremists in recent weeks over the stay-at-home orders governors have issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump’s tweets, however, pushed many online extremist communities to speculate whether the president was advocating for armed conflict, an event they’ve termed “the boogaloo,” for which many far-right activists have been gearing up and advocating since last year.
Interviews with current and former U.S. officials and the internal documents and communications show that despite Trump’s recent disparagement of the WHO, his administration was for weeks relying heavily on its expertise and global reach to fight the pandemic. And in a public relations battle between China and the U.S. over global leadership, American diplomats and aid officials have cited robust U.S. funding of the WHO as a key supporting argument.
The WHO’s expertise is a critical resource for developing countries that lack their own strong public health sectors, said Jeremy Konyndyk, a former USAID official during the Obama administration. Cutting the WHO out of funding means the U.S. is eliminating its own ability to control the pandemic in those countries, he said.
“If you want to try and fight a public health crisis in a developing country without the WHO, you are lost from the outset,” Konyndyk said.
Particularly in conflict zones where the U.S. has limited or no reach, such as Syria, Yemen and Libya, working with the WHO is crucial, one U.S. official said on the condition of anonymity.
Just one day after Trump’s announcement, on Wednesday, WHO staff held a presentation for USAID’s Global Health Bureau on health care in conflict settings, according to a description of the meeting seen by ProPublica.
USAID, the State Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment. The WHO referred ProPublica to comments on Wednesday by its director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying that his organization hopes the U.S. will continue to be a “generous friend” and that his agency “works to improve the health of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
The State Department and USAID turned to the WHO soon after the agencies received nearly $1.3 billion in new funding from Congress to address the pandemic in March. That funding had few strings attached, meaning officials could disburse it largely as they saw fit and did not have to channel it through the WHO or any other specific entity.
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to have had more sustained contact with each other in the past two weeks than at any time since 2016, as the Kremlin tries to use the coronavirus pandemic and close personal ties between the two leaders to normalize long-strained relations with Washington.
Official readouts of their conversations indicate the leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and a price war that destabilized the oil markets. The flurry of phone calls follow a Kremlin campaign urging US-Russia cooperation against the coronavirus that used news outlets Trump follows, said Andrew Weiss, a vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The calls have taken place as both Trump and Putin face domestic political challenges and offer the embattled leaders a way to claim wins. But analysts such as Weiss warn that Putin’s outreach involves risks to the US.
“Reaching out to the United States … is part of part of Putin’s long-term plan to basically undermine the credibility of the United States as an important stalwart player in the global system, to undermine our alliances, and then to create as many lasting sources of tension between Donald Trump and his own national security team,” Weiss told CNN. “The more that Russia succeeds in doing that, the less pressure Russia itself is likely to face from a unified western camp.”