Trump has been antsy to ease pandemic restrictions and open the economy. He’s making a lot of noise about putting together a pandemic economic council that will advise him about when Americans can go back to work. I mentioned this yesterday; some people are talking up George Laffer to be a member if not the chair, which of course would be a disaster.
After America pretty much hooted at his plan to end restrictions by Easter — this weekend, folks — Trump has been cagey about setting dates. However, the Washington Post reported that “Behind closed doors, President Trump — concerned with the sagging economy — has sought a strategy for resuming business activity by May 1, according to people familiar with the discussions.”
Since Trump didn’t actually close anything, however, he can’t very well open anything. It’s really up to governors, most of whom aren’t listening to Trump. I am not sure he understands that.
Some fellow writing on Medium predicts that next month we’ll be hit with the ultimate gaslighting campaign, trying to persuade us that the pandemic is over and we can be normal again. Maybe; I’d like to think that if the virus is still spreading on May 1, as it probably will be, good sense will prevail. But this is America we’re talking about, so I’m probably being foolish.
Because so few of us have been tested, we can’t be sure how broadly and how quickly the virus is spreading. Even so, the U.S. currently is leading the world in number of confirmed cases. In fact, approximately one third of all the world’s confirmed cases are in the U.S. right now. Americans are 4.25 percent of the world’s population. Although the curve may be flattening in some places, overall, it isn’t.
It’s also the case that no part of the U.S. is safe from this virus. A month ago many assumed it would stay in the cities, but it didn’t. The peak of the pandemic may yet be months away in some states, but by the end of summer it’s possible that most Americans — urban and rural, blue states and red states — will at least be aquainted with someone known to have caught covid 19. And the red, rural states in general have fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than more liberal blue states.
So there’s a world of hurt ahead of us, both medically and economically, and Donald Trump cannot bluster it away. Sometimes reality can’t be avoided. But damn; Trump is trying. As I wrote yesterday, the Trump Administration is defunding testing now. And he said yesterday that a widespread testing program to assess whether workers can safely return to their workplaces is “never going to happen” in the United States.
All the health experts say that without more widespread testing we will risk a resurgence of the pandemic. But Trump still doesn’t want those numbers to go up. He doesn’t care about the people; just the numbers.
Speaking of numbers — last week the White House released a projection that100,000 to 240,000 people would die nationwide from the coronavirus. Health experts were mystified as to where those numbers came from. Pretty much every epidemiologist on the planet said those numbers were meaningless.
The estimate appeared to be a rushed affair, said Marc Lipsitch, a leading epidemiologist and director of Harvard University’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “They contacted us, I think, on a Tuesday a week ago, and asked for answers and feedback by Thursday, basically 24 hours,” he said. “My initial response was we can’t do it that fast. But we ended up providing them some numbers responding to very specific scenarios.”
Other experts noted that the White House didn’t even explain the time period the death estimate supposedly captures — just the coming few months, or the year-plus it will take to deploy a vaccine.
But, you know, the White House didn’t care. It just wanted numbers. Then Trump famously said that if only 100,000 people died he will have done a “very good job.” And then MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, bless him, stated the obvious —
The most cynical interpretation of all this, one I can’t quite bring myself to accept, is they rolled out the model showing 100k deaths after they knew it would be less than that so they could anchor everyone to that # and take a vicotry lap when “only” tens of thousands died. https://t.co/hYiUCHhO5g
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) April 8, 2020
— which of course is exactly what’s going on. But Hayes got ripped for speaking the truth.
Anyway, today Trump was jubilent because only 18,000 Americans officially have died from the coronavirus so far.
After a word on the upcoming the Easter holiday, global oil production and the border wall with Mexico, Trump nearly celebrated the potentially massive death toll.
“Tremendous progress is being made,” he said.
Compared to the White House’s previous projection that at least 100,000 people could die from the disease, “I think we will be substantially under that number,” Trump said.
“Hard to believe that if you had 60,000 — you can never be happy — but that’s a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking.”
Chris Hayes was exactly right. And in many places the death toll is still climbing pretty fast. An emotionally normal person would not be celebrating.