If you watch New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, or most every other governor (except the bumbling Ron DeSantis of Florida) at his or her daily news conference, you will see someone in command of the facts (e.g., number of infected patients, number of beds, number of ventilators, number of discharged patients) and with a clear sense of mission.

On Wednesday, Newsom rattled off lines like this: “Again, the prioritization of our day in date discussion interaction is the issue of hospitalizations and ICU beds. Roughly hospitalizations to ICUs are running about 41, almost 42%. You extrapolate that out based on the graph that was just provided in the model, we’ll exceed that phase one surge capacity of 50,000 somewhere in the middle part of May, and if you get up to about 66,000, that’s based upon our current modeling, we’re looking about 27,000 ICU beds that we’ll need to procure in this state.” Just imagine — no, you can’t do it — President Trump displaying that mastery of information.

In one way or another, governors are trying to expand the capacities of their health-care systems and use social distancing to slow the progress of infection. Many are begging the feds to be the purchaser of scarce equipment so the 50 states and the Federal Emergency Management Agency aren’t bidding against one another.

The contrast between the governors’ level of sophistication and Trump’s abject ignorance manages to still shock and appall us. On Wednesday, Trump explained how his thinking on covid-19 had changed. “The severity,” Trump said. “I think also in looking at the way that the contagion is so contagious, nobody’s ever seen anything like this where large groups of people all of a sudden have it just by being in the presence of somebody who has it. The flu has never been like that. . . . Also the violence of it if it hits the right person.” The contagion is so contagious. That’s the president of the United States.

He was warned by experts for weeks that this was highly contagious and that this was not the ordinary flu. Apparently, he was either not listening or did not understand that “just by being in the presence of somebody who has it” the contagion can, well, be contagious. The mind reels.

Vice President Pence is only marginally better. Asked why the administration would not reopen the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges to allow people to get coverage in the midst of an epidemic, he babbled on:

He simply does not know that there are people who do not have insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid. They are being denied the only feasible means of getting insurance so they can receive treatment for a deadly disease.

Compare that gobbledygook with the reaction of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) to the administration’s refusal to reopen the exchanges. “Frankly, this is leadership malpractice,” Pritzker said. “Now more than ever, we need as many people as possible to have access to health care to seek out testing, if we’re ever going to be able to fight covid-19 and eliminate it as a major risk to our people.” He added, “On that same note, the Trump administration’s continued pursuit of a legal case to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health care to tens of millions of Americans is a special insult to the people of this nation at this moment. To seek to kill the ACA at a time like this, not to mention ever, undermines everything that we’re trying to do to keep people safe.”

During normal presidencies, you expect the commander in chief to have the best data, know the most about what is going on and have the most far-sighted vision. Instead, Trump seems to be the least-informed adult in America.

You would think the president and vice president’s abject ignorance would be a source of embarrassment. Nope. They are locked in the right-wing media disinformation bubble. They find out details under duress. Only when things go very badly and their experts are forced to confess bad news do they grudgingly move into the real world. The change in “tone” that too many gullible reporters coo about is the point at which Trump’s lies, disinformation and self-delusion can no longer be sustained. No wonder he looks deflated.

Trump may think he can sugarcoat coronavirus, but media critic Erik Wemple says it is time for the government to speak with one clear voice about public health. (The Washington Post)

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