By Robert A. Vella
Worldwide, there are 2.4+ million confirmed COVID-19 cases which have resulted in over 165,000 deaths. In the U.S., the numbers are 775,000+ cases and over 41,000 deaths – by far the highest figures of any nation. President Trump‘s aggregate job approval ratings, as compiled by Nate Silver’s 538 blog, currently stand at 52.2% disapprove while 44.0% approve. I’ve cited this public opinion polling because Trump’s political status is central to today’s news stories.
Although some areas of the world are seeing increases in coronavirus infections (e.g. India, Singapore, and rural U.S. states with smaller populations), most countries are experiencing a plateau and decline of the pandemic. This is good news, and it should be easing anxieties in the populace. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Panic appears to be rising across the globe primarily due to two factors: 1) people dependent upon steady incomes who lack other resources are being devastated by the global economic collapse, and 2) demagogues are fueling the fires of dissent to advance their self-serving political interests. However, there is a profound difference between legitimate economic concerns and political opportunism. The numerically small but vocal protests across the U.S. demanding the end of “stay at home” orders and a return to economic normalcy have been predominantly organized by right-wing extremist groups (e.g. anti-government, pro-gun, and white nationalist activists) in support of the Trump reelection campaign.
In addition to the ongoing furor over medical diagnostic testing (which is necessary to safely reopen the economy), another fiasco is undermining the U.S. pandemic response. The Paycheck Protection Program passed last month as part of the $2 trillion financial aid package, which was intended to provide small businesses with forgivable loans in order to prevent employee layoffs, has been an unmitigated disaster. Because of lax administrative oversight, big banks have been instead doling-out the funds to their large corporate clients. Not only have thousands of small businesses been inappropriately excluded, the allocated funding has now been exhausted. On the testing front, a broad coalition of professional experts assert that the number of daily COVID-19 tests being performed in the U.S. is no more than one-fifth of what is necessary.
First he was the self-described “wartime president.” Then he trumpeted the “total” authority of the federal government. But in the past few days, President Trump has nurtured protests against state-issued stay-at-home orders aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.
Hurtling from one position to another is consistent with Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency over the past three years. Even when external pressures and stresses appear to change the dynamics that the country is facing, Mr. Trump remains unbowed, altering his approach for a day or two, only to return to nursing grievances.
Not even the president’s re-election campaign can harness him: His team is often reactive to his moods and whims, trying but not always succeeding in steering him in a particular direction. Now, with Mr. Trump’s poll numbers falling after a rally-around-the-leader bump, he is road-testing a new turn on a familiar theme — veering into messages aimed at appealing to Americans whose lives have been disrupted by the legally enforceable stay-at-home orders.
(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump is fighting back against the public health and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in the same way he’s navigated other political perils — by stoking the nation’s partisan divide.
But the scale of the crisis the U.S. is facing — over 39,000 people dead and tens of millions out of work — is bigger than anything Trump has faced. Even some Republican strategists doubt that his standard campaign playbook will work in November.
With the “rally around the flag effect” waning and his poll numbers down, the president abandoned a pretense of bipartisanship on Friday by tweeting that his supporters should “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — three states with Democratic governors and strict stay-at-home orders. Protests in Michigan, whose governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is a possible running mate for Democrat Joe Biden, have been organized by a Trump campaign surrogate.
The pivot came just a day after Trump himself outlined a methodical return-to-work policy contingent on states meeting specific benchmarks on testing and Covid-19 cases, and to be determined at state-government level.
More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials.
A number of CDC staff members are regularly detailed to work at the WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said.
The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump’s assertion that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States.
With President Donald Trump saying he wants to lift stay-at-home novel coronavirus orders and open up parts of the country, more than 45 economists, social scientists, lawyers and ethicists say there’s a growing consensus pointing to a major step necessary to put Americans back to work: dramatically upscaling testing.
In a report titled “Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience,” set to be released on Monday, a blue-ribbon panel of thought leaders across the political spectrum called COVID-19 “a profound threat to our democracy, comparable to the Great Depression and World War II.”
“It’s a moment for a ‘Can Do America’ to really show up and put itself to work,” Danielle Allen, lead author of the report and a professor at Harvard University’s Edmond J.Safra Center on Ethics, told ABC News.
The report says that ending the quarantine safely will require testing, tracing, and supported isolation, a combination known by the acronym TTSI.
Test producers will need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to safely open parts of the economy by late July, according to the report. To “fully re-mobilize the economy,” the country will need to see testing grow to 20 million a day, the report suggests.
Amid efforts to expand coronavirus testing, laboratory operators and state health officials are navigating a thicket of supply shortages, widespread test backlogs, unexpected snafus and unreliable results, often with no referee—prolonging the national crisis.
Public health experts say fast, widespread testing is a key requirement for safely reopening businesses and returning to something close to normal life, because it would allow officials to detect new cases quickly and stem outbreaks.
As President Trump and many of his advisers focus more attention on the nation’s economic reopening, lower ranking officials are trying to sort out the testing puzzle and individual labs are vying for supplies in a fractured and exhausted marketplace.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned Sunday that the economic downturn facing the city will be more painful than the 2008 recession, requiring cuts to government programs and the furlough of thousands of city employees.
In a remarkable State of the City address, one that comes five weeks into the shutdown of many businesses, government buildings and other facilities, Garcetti declared that the city is “under attack” from the coronavirus and the economic fallout that has come with it.
BEIRUT —As more than half the people in the world hunker down under some form of enforced confinement, stirrings of political and social unrest are pointing to a new, potentially turbulent phase in the global effort to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
Already, protests spurred by the collapse of economic activity have erupted in scattered locations around the world.
The United Nations and the International Monetary Fund are among those that have warned in recent days that the pandemic could unleash what U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called “a significant threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.”
With the IMF forecasting the worst global recession in nearly a century, there is a risk of “an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease,” Guterres said.