No one could make up a character as narcissistic and lacking in human empathy as President Trump. Trump’s own words make the point better than any analysis or commentary:

More than 2,400 Americans had died by Sunday. Governors around the country are screaming for more assistance from the federal government. Trump? He obsesses over ratings. It is hard to comprehend how indifferent he is to human suffering.

His inanities did not stop. Later on Sunday, this is what he was worrying about:

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hit the nail on the head. “Well, first of all, let me just say how sad it is that, even since the President’s signing of the bill, the number of deaths reported has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 in our country,” she said in a CNN “State of the Union” interview (before Trump’s tweet). “This is such a very, very sad time for us. So, we should be taking every precaution. What the president — his denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where — it continues — his delay in getting equipment to where it’s needed is deadly.” She added that "as the president fiddles, people are dying. And we have to — we just have to take every precaution.” Trump’s sloth prevents proactive planning, and his utterances send everyone into a tizzy (e.g., a “quarantine” for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), distracting the public and state and local officials.

As they have from the beginning, governors are laser-focused on solving equipment shortages and building up hospital capacity. Appearing together on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Michigan and Louisiana governors made their plea:

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER: Our numbers are climbing exponentially. We knew it was a matter of time, not if COVID-19 would come to Michigan. We took aggressive measures. We’ve been on the front end of aggressive measures that states have been taking, but we see this astronomical rise. We’ve got hospitals that are already at capacity. We’re running out of PPE as well. I’m grateful we got a shipment from FEMA yesterday for 112,000 N95 masks, but, you know, we’re going to be in dire straits again in a matter of days. And so we’re keeping up the pressure and working 24/7 at the state level. . . .
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS: Well, we have the coronavirus now in cases in 56 of our 64 parishes. So while the hot spot is down around New Orleans, it is statewide. We know that if we don’t flatten the curve, we’re on a trajectory currently to exceed our capacity in the New Orleans area for ventilators by about April the 4th, and all beds available in hospitals by about April the 10th. So we’re doing everything we can to surge capacity. It is very difficult. We did get some PPE yesterday, like Governor Whitmer said. We’ve already allocated about 100,000 masks just yesterday to the hospitals. Ventilators are the short-term really big pressing issue that we’re trying to solve for — very difficult because every state is looking for these. There are only so many to be had. And so we’re trying to get the, the public to slow the spread by following the mitigation measures while we ramp up our medical capacity. This is a very challenging public health emergency.

Whitmer in particular sounded on CNN as though she is juggling multiple balls, all the while trying not to crash into Trump:

You know, I don’t have energy to respond to every slight. I — what I’m trying to do is work well with the federal government. And I will tell you this. There are people from the White House on down who are working 24/7, just like we are at the states. We’re all stressed, because we have people that are dying right now. I need assistance and I need partnership. And so that’s what we’re starting to see out of the feds. We’re grateful for it. But there’s so much more work to do.

There is a growing consensus that the country will need a fourth relief package. Pelosi on CNN argued Sunday that money to the states was “just a down payment.” She added that a new bill would need to address the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, pension protection, “more on family medical leave,” coverage of the cost of covid-19 treatment and “address what happened to the District of Columbia, which was really cruel, that they called it a territory, and, hence, they got several hundred million dollars less in funding.” Republicans are already grumbling about the cost. In any other presidency, the chief executive would call Congress back to work, propose a follow-on package and address the concerns governors raise repeatedly. Not this president. He’s obsessed with ratings. Congress likely will not return to Washington for several weeks. The death toll will rise, the economic hardship will deepen, and the governors’ logistical problems will become insoluble.

Increasingly, the country seems to operate on two tracks. On one, groveling courtiers flatter Trump, try to soften his impulsive pronouncements and scramble to catch up after months of delay. As they cater to the president, exploring patently absurd ideas, they have less attention to devote to real issues that only the federal government can address. On the other track, governors have no time for bowing and scraping; they are dealing hands-on with hundreds of logistical challenges, made worse by the absence of coordinated purchasing and by lack of a comprehensive testing program. Thank goodness governors are actually doing their jobs, which increasingly entail navigating around Trump.

Global Opinions writer Jason Rezaian spent a year and a half in an Iranian prison. How he coped with panic and anxiety applies to the fear of coronavirus today. (The Washington Post)

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