During his lengthy and meandering comments from the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, he explicitly argued that the wall being built on that border is necessary to keep out the virus-laden hordes.
“The wall was so timely, because it stopped people coming in from heavily infected areas of Mexico,” he claimed. “If we had that, we would be in trouble like you wouldn’t believe. You wouldn’t believe.”
Of course, we are in trouble with the coronavirus, and not because of Mexico. While the number of new cases in Mexico each day continues to climb, it’s climbing far less rapidly than in the United States.
In other words, the U.S. decision to shutter both the southern and northern borders has probably been more helpful to Mexico and Canada than to the United States. The rate of new infections in the United States is 10 times that of Mexico; adjusted for population, it’s still four times higher. Canada barely registers; the daily rate of new cases in the United States is more than 187 times higher than in Canada and more than 20 times on a population-adjusted basis.
That’s the big picture. If we dive down to the county and municipality level at the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s still clear that it’s the northern side of that barrier that is more problematic in terms of the virus. There have been fewer than 23,000 cases recorded in the 36 Mexican municipalities that touch the border. There have been nearly 80,000 in the 23 U.S. border counties.
San Diego and Pima counties alone have recorded more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than the entirety of the areas that abut the border from the Mexican side. Six Mexican border municipalities have seen more than 1,000 cases, compared to 11 U.S. border counties.
It’s not just those counties that pose risks across the international borders. The spread of the virus within the United States has been much more widespread and much more dense than in nearly any part of Mexico or Canada.
Canada’s hardest-hit province, Quebec, has seen a bit fewer than 57,000 cases. Eighteen U.S. states have exceeded that total. Those same 18 states have also recorded more cases than the worst-hit region in Mexico, near its capital.
Again, the United States is a much larger country. Even adjusting for population, though, the spread of the virus since the pandemic began has been much broader in the United States than its neighbors. More than 30 states have higher population-adjusted case totals than Quebec and Mexico City.
That’s looking at cumulative cases since the pandemic emerged. If we consider the current state of the pandemic, using data through Tuesday, the situation is even worse.
The region of Mexico with the highest seven-day average of new cases is currently Mexico City, where just under 800 new cases are being added per day. In Canada, the rate of new cases is highest in Ontario, with 127 new daily cases.
Fourteen states are adding new cases faster than Mexico City. Thirty-seven are adding cases faster than Ontario.
Adjusting for population, Ontario is adding fewer cases each day than anywhere in the United States besides Maine and Vermont. In other words, the worst-hit area in Canada is adding as many cases per 100,000 residents as the least-affected places in the United States.
The Tabasco region of Mexico, the place where the most cases are accruing as a function of population right now, is still doing so more slowly than 16 U.S. states. That includes each of the states on the border with Mexico and the Gulf Coast except New Mexico.
Trump’s warnings about the threat posed by people crossing the border were always hyperbolic at best. The pandemic has made his cautions about the threat of coronavirus traveling from one country to another a bit more on the nose.
Those warnings are just getting the direction of travel wrong.