The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democrats should be blunt: Republicans are willing to endanger lives

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) speaks at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital on Thursday in Marietta, Ga. (Mike Stewart/AP)
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The zeal with which President Trump, a batch of Republican governors, right-wing media and Trumpist followers demand that children go back to school amid a pandemic surge should shock one’s conscience. Even worse, some Republicans seek to hinder those who do want to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Republicans, following Trump’s lead, seem bent on hurling us into a medical debacle that might exceed anything we saw in New York at the height of the pandemic.

The New York Times reports, “As clashes over face-covering mandates and school reopening plans intensified throughout the United States, the country shattered its single-day record for new cases on Thursday — more than 75,600, according to a New York Times database.” Nearly a dozen times in the last month, the United States has set a new record for cases in a single day. Even more tragic: “Florida on Thursday broke its single-day death record for the second time this week, reporting 156 new fatalities. It was one of 10 states to reach a record for deaths in a single day this week, joining Idaho, Alabama, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, Texas, Hawaii, Montana and South Carolina.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) still refuses to enact a statewide mask requirement and remains eager to send children back to school.

The prize for the most reckless disregard for life goes to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who is suing Atlanta’s mayor and city council for attempting to enforce a mask requirement. It boggles the mind that he not only refuses to do everything possible to protect Georgians but also wants to interfere with responsible public officials who try.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) was unsparing in her response:

Perhaps Democrats need to be more blunt. I am certain that if roles were reversed, Republicans would be accusing Democrats of killing thousands and endangering the lives of schoolchildren, their teachers and their families.

The Post's View: Gov. Kemp’s main job is to protect Georgians. Instead, he’s putting them in danger.

We should not let Republican voters off the hook, either. They continue to support this president. Some are engaged in trying to hamper lifesaving measures. The Salt Lake Tribune reports: “Parent after parent followed at the Utah County commission meeting Wednesday afternoon, objecting for more than two hours to having their kids in masks even as counts of the virus continue to climb across the state, where there are more than 30,000 confirmed cases.” These Americans apparently have been so bamboozled by Trump that they would willfully thwart lifesaving measures, something akin to the anti-vaxxer craze. (The majority of Americans support mask requirements, but hordes of Republicans around the country refuse to weigh in on the side of protecting life.)

Remember that the entire effort to practice social distancing and restrict the spread of the coronavirus (“bending the curve”) was to avoid the situation that developed in Italy, where doctors had to decide which patients they could save and which they would let die. That hellscape was unimaginable for most Americans. Now we are edging toward that horror.

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The Post reports:

Officials on Thursday said they are concerned that hospitals will soon hit a breaking point if the trajectory of ever-growing caseloads doesn’t change. ...
The current crisis across the Sun Belt recalls the early days of the pandemic in New York City, when overwhelmed hospitals canceled all but the most urgent surgeries, brought infected medical workers back without two-week quarantines and declined to attempt resuscitation on some patients who had stopped breathing or went into cardiac arrest.”

And ominously, we learned: “Arizona has already moved to a crisis-care model, although Arizona Medical Association President Ross Goldberg said he did not believe any hospitals had yet had to triage care at patients’ expense.” Not yet. Mississippi appears even worse off. “In Mississippi, 10 ICUs have no beds available and the lack of capacity ‘is harming patient care,’ state Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said at a news conference.”

Democrats should be forthright: Trump and Republican governors’ reckless actions have caused avoidable illness and death and could result in horrifying scenes of triage like those we saw in Italy. In continuing to interfere with and disregard medical experts, they jeopardize thousands more. Never have we seen a political party so irresponsibly endanger so many lives.

Even as the number of U.S. coronavirus cases passes 3 million, President Trump has repeatedly played down covid-19’s toll on the country. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jonathan Newton / Washington Post/The Washington Post)

Read more:

Danielle Allen: We missed one chance to open schools safely. Here’s the new, more expensive, option.

Brian P. Gill and Jennifer S. Lerner: We can reopen schools — if we’re willing to rethink how they operate

The Post’s View: Schools need to reopen. The question is how.

Leana S. Wen: If Trump wants to reopen schools, here’s what his administration needs to do

Jennifer Rubin: Who thought putting Betsy DeVos on TV was a good idea? It wasn’t.

Daniel T. Halperin: The case for reopening schools this fall