“We’re opening up this incredible country,” he declared midday in the Rose Garden to Fox News interviewers, hours after the World Health Organization declared a “very large acceleration” of coronavirus infections in the United States, raising the prospect of this country becoming the pandemic’s new epicenter.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump declared. He went on to say he “wasn’t happy about” his public health experts’ recommendations, but he reluctantly accepted two weeks of restrictions because “we would have been unbelievably criticized for not doing it.”
If Trump succeeds in getting Americans to mix again in public at the height of the pandemic (many governors are unlikely to be so foolhardy with their constituents’ health), he will be risking the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions. Just a week into his tepid embrace of social distancing, he’s ready to abandon the fight against the virus and instead force Americans to accept a new strategy for dealing with a pandemic: survival of the fittest.
It won’t work: The economy won’t bounce back if people don’t feel safe. “There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus,” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican said on Twitter.
It’s illogical: If he really sees things quickly returning to normal, what’s the point of a $2 trillion emergency spending package?
Above all, it’s immoral. Trump will be condemning to death the most vulnerable 1 or 2 percent who get the disease — and everybody else who can’t get medical care for heart attacks or injuries because hospitals are full.
“What is this, some modern Darwinian theory of natural selection?” asked an incredulous New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “We are going to fight every way we can to save every life that we can,” the Democrat added.
Trump seems to be acting in near-total ignorance. “You can’t compare this to 1918,” he said of the great pandemic. “That was a flu where if you got it, you had a 50/50 chance or very close of dying.” In fact, the 1918 influenza mortality rate was 2.5 percent. The WHO puts coronavirus mortality at 3.4 percent, though that’s likely to fall.
Trump blithely proclaimed that “we can socially distance ourselves and go to work.” He suggested more hand-washing and less hand-shaking. “We lose thousands of people a year to the flu; we never turn the country off,” he said. “We lose much more than that to automobile accidents; we didn’t call up the automobile companies to say, ‘Stop making cars.’ ”
The annual chance of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 8,000. Seasonal flu mortality is 0.1 percent.
Compare Trump with other world leaders, who rally their people to the urgent cause of social distancing. “The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades,” Britain’s Boris Johnson told his country this week, summoning “a huge national effort to halt the growth.”
And Canada’s Justin Trudeau: “We can’t afford to stop now. … Staying home is your way to serve.”
Americans understand this. Seventy-two percent think it will take months or longer for the virus to be contained, a CBS-YouGov poll found. Americans can see it took China three months to control the virus with severe measures.
But Trump listens to his amen choir at Fox News, where Texas’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, says he’s willing to “take a chance” on his survival in order for America to “get back to work.” Other Fox voices have belittled the input from doctors and pushed the White House to relax restrictions.
With that encouragement, a confident Trump sat down for his Fox interview with his usual impropriety. He attacked the media, Nancy Pelosi, “Sleepy Joe Biden” and particularly Cuomo, saying Cuomo favored “death panels” to buying ventilators. Trump launched asides about windmills, the Syrian war and the impeachment “witch hunt.” And he replaced expert opinion with his own.
“This cure is worse than the problem,” he said. “In my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue.”
On the basis of that uninformed speculation, a reckless Trump would sign death warrants for millions.
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