The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump’s performance on covid-19 looks especially bad compared with the rest of the world

President Trump wears a mask while visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda on July 11. (Tasos Katopodis/Reuters)

As the rest of the world battles the coronavirus, President Trump is battling scientists. He is now taking aim at Anthony S. Fauci, who recently said: “When you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not.”

Trump is angry because Fauci is describing reality. And the reality is this: Trump’s response to the pandemic, measured against the efforts of other developed countries, has been an unmitigated disaster.

Elected Republicans, taking to the airwaves in support of their Dear Leader, have consistently argued that Trump has done perfectly in handling the pandemic — somehow overlooking how often his statements have been false (the virus will disappear in April) or downright dangerous (that perhaps injecting disinfectants could be a makeshift cure). More than 130,000 deaths and tens of millions of unemployed Americans have done nothing to sway their unwavering belief that everything Trump has done is flawless.

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Those Republicans are fortunate to have media echo chambers and propagandistic cheerleaders to swat away reality from many of their core constituents. Disinformation online has further insulated elected Republicans from facing their objective failures.

But they have a problem. When you compare the United States with other countries, no spin or lies can obscure a basic fact: Trump’s response to the pandemic has been a world-leading catastrophe.

On Sunday, Britain recorded 650 new cases of covid-19. Japan recorded 373. Germany had 138. And South Korea, a model in handling the outbreak, identified just 44. Add those four numbers up and you get 1,205 new confirmed cases. The populations of those countries put together is roughly identical to the population of the United States.

And yet, Sunday, the United States recorded 58,349 new cases — by far the highest number in the world. Compared with those peer countries with a similar combined population, the new caseload in the United States is roughly 50 times worse.

It’s so bad, in fact, that Florida’s new record of 15,000 new cases in a single day would place it as the fourth-worst country in the world, outpaced only by Brazil, India and the rest of the United States. To put that into perspective, Florida has 23 times more new daily cases than the worst-hit country in Europe (Britain) even though Britain has three times Florida’s population. If you adjust per capita, then, Florida’s outbreak is currently about 70 times worse than that of the worst-hit country in Europe.

These aren’t cherry-picked examples. In terms of new cases Sunday, Britain was worst in Europe; Germany was fifth-worst; and Japan is around the median in Asia. The entire European Union, plus Britain — which has about 200 million more people than the United States — had roughly 2,500 cases Sunday, compared to just under 60,000 in the U.S.

Trump continues to argue — and his Fox News acolytes continue to parrot — the false notion that these differences are due to testing. They are not. Britain has performed 178 tests for every 1,000 residents. The United States, by comparison, has conducted 129 tests for every 1,000 residents. Crucially, while test numbers steadily grow in the United States, some other countries are now not keeping pace — not because they aren’t testing enough but because they just have fewer sick people to test.

New Zealand, for example, has done about 85 tests per 1,000 residents and they just declared its country virus-free. Countries like Germany have excess testing capacity because vast demand for it doesn’t exist. In the most recent data, about 1 in every 200 tests came back positive in Britain and Germany. In the United States, that same figure was 1 in 12.

There are undeniably small differences in how data are measured and tracked. But the gulf between America’s caseload and everyone else’s is so breathtakingly vast that it can’t be explained or wished away. This is highlighted by the fact that U.S. passports, which usually open doors just about everywhere across the globe, now close them. Other countries want to keep disease-carrying Americans out.

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The comparison is even more damning for the White House because the United States had some major advantages going into the pandemic. America is a rich country with low population density. While South Koreans are packed together with 529 people per square kilometer and Britain has 275, the United States has just 36. Arizona, which has one of the worst state outbreaks, has just 23 people per square kilometer. Those differences make physical distancing easier. Moreover, the dominance of car culture in the United States makes it easier to avoid crowded public transportation. And yet, due to an epic failure of Trumpian mismanagement, those advantages were squandered.

This leaves one damning conclusion: The pandemic was unavoidable, but America’s dire circumstances were a policy choice. The rest of the developed world followed the science. The United States followed Trump. In November, voters should look around the world, realize how badly we stack up, and cast their ballots accordingly.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Trump’s rage at Fauci just boomeranged back on him

Eugene Robinson: We’re No. 1! In a pandemic, that’s no cause for celebration.

Paul Waldman: The whole world is watching America’s failure

Kathleen Parker: Stay away from South Carolina

Michael Gerson: Trump is responsible for our unfolding coronavirus disaster

Fareed Zakaria: Smart countries have the edge in fighting covid-19. The United States isn’t one of them.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will probably challenge a key line of treatment for people with compromised immune systems — the drugs known as monoclonal antibodies.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

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