The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Coronavirus reality is clobbering Trump

Shuttered stores and restaurants in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., on April 18. (Eve Edelheit/Bloomberg)
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Perhaps no single action better epitomizes President Trump’s narcissism than his decision to relocate the Republican National Convention from North Carolina to Florida, a state that would allow him to flout anti-coronavirus protection measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing, and expose his own followers to a deadly pandemic in the pursuit of TV optics. Now, he might not even get that.

The Post reports: “Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida and host of the Republican National Convention in August, announced Monday that masks will be mandatory in public and indoor locations, as well as in ‘other situations where individuals cannot socially distance.’ ” It seems Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, finally saw the necessity of following expert advice. Whether the measure will apply specifically to the convention — or rather, whether Trump will get a specific exemption from a measure necessary to protect the health of others — has yet to be determined. However, if conditions persist, it may be politically untenable for Jacksonville’s political leaders and even Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a reliable Trump lackey, to allow the potential super-spreader convention to assemble.

Trump tried to run away from a responsible governor in North Carolina — Democrat Roy Cooper — but he may not be able to outrun the pandemic. Likewise, he can goad Republican governors from Texas, Arizona, Georgia and other Sun Belt states to open their states prematurely, recklessly exposing thousands more to the virus. But the virus catches up.

Some African American men are criminalized in public spaces, says sociologist Dr. Rashawn Ray. It makes it harder for them to wear face masks during a pandemic. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

In Arizona, The Post reported Monday, “coronavirus cases have been increasing in Arizona, with more than 3,800 cases reported Sunday, the highest single-day total since March, according to Arizona Republic data.” In addition, “Arizona’s seven-day rolling average for new cases is 12 percent higher than it was a week ago, according to Washington Post data. The Copper State also hit a new high for hospitalizations, which has risen by 30 percent from Sunday, according to Washington Post data.”

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is now under siege in Texas for his reopening orders. “The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas surpassed 150,000 Sunday,” the Houston Chronicle reports. “Cases across the Lone Star State went from 147,374 to 151,507, an increase of 4,133 cases (or 2.8 percent). . . Texas also saw 12 new deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 2,400 statewide (a 0.5 percent increase).” Houston’s caseload is now more than 40,000.

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Denial, obfuscation, lying and conspiracy-mongering are ineffectual tools in fighting a global pandemic. Trump argues that more testing makes for more cases when, obviously, more tests simply reveal the extent of his failure to address a national health-care crisis. The result of Trump’s mishandling of the crisis is continued erosion in confidence in his pronouncements.

A poll from the Pew Research Center finds: “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) say the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other public health organizations get the facts right ‘almost all’ or ‘most’ of the time when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, while about half as many (30%) say the same about President Trump and his administration. Instead, a solid majority of Americans (65%) say the White House gets the facts right only ‘some of the time’ (29%) or ‘hardly ever’ (36%).” While Trump continues to sway gullible Republicans, fewer Republicans are buying into his spin than one would expect from a president whose party approval ratings are still higher than 80 percent. (“54% of Republicans say the White House gets the facts right at least most of the time. . . . The share of Republicans who trust the information they are getting from the administration is similar to the share in the GOP who say the same about the CDC and other public health organizations (51%).”)

Trump can neither govern competently nor absorb and articulate reliable scientific data. In other contexts (e.g., impeachment), he can bluff and bluster his way through the backlash over his failures. A virus is different. The coronavirus pandemic is a constant reminder that facts matter and that objective reality cannot be wished away. And that is bad news for Americans and for the incumbent president.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: As Trump’s corruption gets worse, some Democrats want a tougher response

The Post’s View: The pandemic is not under control in the U.S. Just look at Texas.

Leana S. Wen: The White House is right about one thing on covid-19: We need young people’s help

Megan McArdle: Trump will richly deserve his fate. But he won’t pay the heaviest cost.