The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion No Mr. Trump, the virus is not under control. It is in control.

President Trump speaks at the White House on Thursday.
President Trump speaks at the White House on Thursday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

IN A week in which the United States exceeded 50,000 new coronavirus cases on multiple days, more than double the rate of just a few weeks ago, there are important messages that President Trump could have sent from the White House podium on Thursday. He could have insisted that all Americans wear face masks in public, or urged them to steer clear of crowded July 4 celebrations. He could have pledged a renewed federal effort to expand the still-troubled program of diagnostic testing, a prerequisite for a return to normalcy. He could have given governors support for the need to impose new restrictions to contain the virus.

He did none of these things.

Instead, Mr. Trump remains in blissful denial as crisis ripples through the Sun Belt, threatening to create chaos and distress nationwide for months to come. On Wednesday, he said of the pandemic, “I think at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.” On Thursday, in a brief appearance before reporters, without wearing a face mask and refusing to take questions, he said, “We have some areas where we are putting out the flames, or the fires, and that’s working out well.” He went on to assert that the United States, like Europe and China, is “getting it under control.” Some areas are suffering a “flare up,” he acknowledged, “and we are putting out the fires” with a strategy to “vanquish and kill the virus.”

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

The reality is that the virus is not under control; it is in control. Record-shattering numbers of new cases were reported Wednesday in six states: California, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona and Alaska. New daily cases are increasing in 41 states compared to two weeks ago. Outbreaks and superspreader events are erupting, such as clusters from Myrtle Beach, S.C. In five months, the pandemic has killed nearly 19 times as many Americans as have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Trump — whose early reaction to the pandemic was to wish it away, who failed to muster the logistical support to confront it and who then decided to walk away by leaving the response largely to the states — this week continued to engage in magical thinking, referring to the raging pandemic as “certain hot spots.” In fact, states that opened up prematurely in May are paying the price now, and Mr. Trump bears responsibility for encouraging governors to loosen the restrictions too early. It was a bad miscalculation.

Speculation by Fox News and the president about covid-19 cures is making it more difficult for health officials to do their job, says media critic Erik Wemple. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Alex Brandon / AP/The Washington Post)

Now, governors are rapidly trying to backpedal, abruptly closing bars and restaurants, but it is exceedingly difficult to shift from reopening to closure again. Mr. Trump on Thursday elided this difficulty, saying the reopening decision is “largely up to them.” He was characteristically only concerned with praising himself. “We’ve done a historic thing,” he said, adding that he saved “millions of lives” and now is opening up the country “far faster than anybody thought even possible and more successfully.”

This is historic delusion, and it has consequences in human lives.

Read more:

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

Molly Roberts: How Trump lost the mask wars

Leana S. Wen: The Fourth of July can be a virus reset. Here’s exactly what we need to do.

The Post’s View: It seems nothing will stop Trump from moving ahead with his dangerous Fourth of July events

Dana Milbank: Could America’s pandemic response be any more medieval?

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 likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

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. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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