Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, gave a dire warning Tuesday in a Senate committee hearing held as coronavirus infections surge in many parts of the United States.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned,” Fauci said in response to questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on what the overall U.S. death toll is likely to be.

We know how we got here: After a delinquent response to the onset of the pandemic, President Trump used his substantial bully pulpit to encourage states to reopen when conditions did not warrant loosening of stay-at-home rules (e.g., available hospital capacity, a robust testing and tracing program, a reduced infection rate). The president made matters worse by actively inhibiting mask-wearing. We have paid an awful price in human life and in economic activity; we now risk a flat-out catastrophe.

Coincidentally or not, former vice president Joe Biden delivered a searing speech on Tuesday regarding Trump’s inadequate coronavirus response. “Despite the administration’s propaganda that their response should be ‘a cause for celebration,’ despite President Trump’s request that we should slow down testing, because he thinks it makes him look bad, covid-19 is still here,” the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee said. He added, the “daily threat to American health and prosperity” is continuing.

Biden has been remarkably prescient on the issue, which he was happy to recount:

In January, I sounded the alarm over the coronavirus outbreak. Trump told the country that covid-19 is "totally under control” and that everything would all “work out well.”
In February, I warned about our failure to get information we needed from the Chinese government. I said if I were president, I would demand it.
Trump said we were in "great shape" and reported that China’s president said it was “doing very well.”
In March, I set forth a detailed plan for 500 federally-funded testing sites across the country as well as guaranteed emergency paid leave. Later that month, I called for the full and immediate use of the Defense Production Act to deliver critical supplies.
Trump accused health-care workers of stealing masks.
In April, I released plans to secure the supply chain for personal protective equipment, surge nationwide testing through a pandemic testing board, and launch a nationwide health corps to focus on contact tracing.
Trump’s suggestion?
Americans should inject disinfectants into their bodies.
In May, I condemned the false choice between preserving our public health and our economy. I urged the administration to focus on the basic public health measures like testing that would enable us to sustain our economic recovery.
Trump’s response?
He pushed for reopening without regard for safety and called testing “frankly overrated.”

In Biden’s words, Trump is the one thing the president despises: A loser. Biden declared that “it seems the wartime president has surrendered — has waved the white flag and left the field of battle. Today, we’re facing a serious threat, and we must meet it — as one country.”

He then outlined his ideas for a different approach. He began with the necessity of “testing, testing, testing” and to create a national corps of tracers. He also urged that “every single front-line worker should have the personal protective equipment” and put a “laser-focus on treatments and vaccines” by engaging in international efforts. He also wants to see “real plans, real guidelines with uniform, nationwide standards to help chart our economic reopening.” Left to their own devices, Republican governors have stepped away from evidence-based guidelines. Finally, he called particular focus to “the populations most at risk from this virus — our seniors. Our black and brown and native communities that are being hit the hardest.”

In sum, without a national plan based on science, we are right back where we started in March — or in an even worse spot. Biden echoed Fauci’s warning, asserting “the crisis is real — and it’s surging.” Trump has frittered away valuable time, urged counterproductive measures and set a poor example by declining to wear masks, which studies have suggested could save thousands of lives.

Biden wrapped up with a harsh rebuke of Trump’s narcissism: “It’s not about you, Mr. President — it’s about the health and well-being of the American public. The American people didn’t make enormous sacrifices over the past four months so you could waste your time with late night rantings and tweets,” he said. “They didn’t make these sacrifices so you could ignore the science and turn responsible steps like wearing a mask into a political statement. And they certainly didn’t do it so you could wash your hands and walk away.”

On this issue, as with so many more, the contrast between Trump and Biden is stark. Biden promised he would respect and listen to scientists, work with every state (rather than threatening and insulting many) and tell the truth. That would be a pleasant change.

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