The President passes on his delusion or deception that he has “dominated” the virus and now is the time for the rest of us to do the same

Bob Sheak,

bsheak983@gmail.com

Oct 9, 2020

The country was surprised to learn that Trump has been infected by the Covid-19 virus and was sick enough to be hospitalized. This news has been in the headlines since the public first learned about the president’s illness on Oct 2. Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman were among the journalists who wrote about the incident  (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/us/politics/trump-covid.html). Millions of Americans, especially among his stalwart supporters, hope that the president recovers from the illness. However, while many are concerned, there are even more who think about the larger unfolding pandemic that Trump has arguably made worse than it might have otherwise been. Here are just two examples. He has continuously offered deceptive upbeat assessments of the virus’s impact on the American population, promising that it was soon going to disappear. He has often been dismissive of the importance of following CDC guidelines such as wearing a mask and thus set an example to be followed by his millions of supporters. He turned scientific recommendations into a political and divisive issues.

The purpose of this post

Here, for the record, I reconstruct from various sources how the saga of the president’s disease unfolded, the responses to it, and where it stands as of Oct 8, 2020. The relevance of this account is that it has become another example of Trump’s nefarious use of the power of his office and how he can influence public narratives to suit his own often self-aggrandizing purposes, while disregarding or disputing the facts. This is not just about a mentally unstable person, but also about one who is the “leader” of a “plutocratic-populous” alliance (see attached) who threatens to subvert the election in November by rejecting a peaceful transition and invoking a conspiracy theory that the election will be decided by fraudulent mail-in ballots. His mishandling of the pandemic will be a major factor in the November election and perhaps cancel out his false claims about a rigged election against him.

A story of reckless abandonment

In an article published in The Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh DawseyCarol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura, give us some background on how reckless and misleading the president has been in his statements to the public about the Covid-19 pandemic (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-seemed-to-defy-the-laws-of-science-and-disease-then-the-virus-caught-up-with-him/2020/10/02/5b4c5232-04bf-11eb-897d-3a6201d6643f_story.html).

They point out that for months the president and “people around him — his aides, his children, even his golf-club members — avoided taking basic steps to prevent the virus’s spread, like wearing masks and avoiding large indoor crowds.” Mask wearing was rare “among Trump’s staff and the Secret Service agents and military service crew aboard Air Force One — even after national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien tested positive in July.” His sons. Donald Jr. and Eric “have spoken to packed audiences in indoor venues.” The journalists add: “And the Trump campaign violated state regulations limiting the size of gatherings in Nevada, earning a public rebuke from the governor after the president addressed thousands at an indoor event there last month.” Topping it off, Trump thought he would never be infected by the virus, as indicated by his response to a question posed by Bob Woodward on whether he was afraid of catching the virus, to which Trump responded: “I don’t know why I’m not,” he said, according to a recording of the interview. “I’m not.” Michell Goldberg provides more information from Woodward’s taped interviews with Trump, as follows:

“Yet in recordings Woodward has released of Trump talking about the coronavirus — excerpts from interviews conducted for Woodward’s new book, “Rage” — the president doesn’t sound ignorant or deluded. Rather, he sounds uncommonly lucid. On Feb. 7, Trump described the virus as airborne and ‘more deadly than even your strenuous flus,’ adding, ‘this is 5 percent versus 1 percent, or less than 1 percent.’ It’s not clear whether Trump thought that Covid-19 had a 5 percent case fatality rate — a number that seemed plausible in February — but he clearly knew that compared with the flu, it was several times more likely to kill.

“And yet he told the country just the opposite. “The percentage for the flu is under 1 percent,” Trump said on March 7. “But this could also be under 1 percent because many of the people that aren’t that sick don’t report.” Despite knowing that the virus was airborne, he mocked mask-wearing and held several large indoor rallies. He told Woodward in March that “plenty of young people” were getting sick, but over the summer would insist that 99 percent of cases were “totally harmless” and that children are “almost immune.”

Goldberg rightly calls his statements a “conscious deception,” as “Trump kept insisting that the virus would disappear.” She adds: “Privately, he told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Fahrenthold writes that presently, given the knowledge of Trump’s infection, many people, “donors, aides, Secret Service agents,” who are in regular contact with the president now worry whether they have been infected. And the president held rallies that brought hundreds or thousands of people together, mostly unmasked and shoulder to shoulder, sometimes indoors. For example, Fahrenthold and his colleagues write: Trump held an indoor rally in Tulsa where 6,000 supporters showed up, far fewer than he had expected.

“With cases spiking in the summer — as the virus spread to states that had been relatively spared in the early months — White House and Trump campaign aides grew alarmed. The president’s public approval ratings had fallen and he was trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in election polling. On July 11, Trump donned a mask for the first time in public during a visit to meet with injured U.S. service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“But since then, Trump has only worn the mask a few times in public, and he quickly resumed rally-style events, held mostly at airport hangars that are at least partially outdoors. Thousands of supporters, most of them barefaced and crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, cheered for the president and his surrogates at events that routinely lasted well over an hour.

In late August, “Trump packed the South Lawn with thousands of supporters — most of whom were not tested ahead of time and did not wear masks — for his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.”

Discovering the president is infected – an unfolding story

Baker and Haberman reported the following on Oct 2: “President Trump revealed early Friday morning [Oct. 2] that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 American [now over 212,000, rising over 40,000 a day] and devastated the economy.” They also point out that Mr. Trump, who for months has played down the seriousness of the virus “earlier on Thursday night [Oct 1] told an audience gathered at one of his golf courses in New Jersey that ‘the end of the pandemic is in sight” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/us/politics/trump-covid.html).This was a fundraising event at the president’s golf course facilities near the New Jersey town of Bedminster (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-s-reckless-new-jersey-fundraiser-under-state-review-n1242287).

The New York Times editorial board noted that “the president had a high fever on Friday and his blood oxygen levels dropped to the point that he was given supplemental oxygen. To get the situation under control, his medical team is hitting him with, among other measures, steroids and an experimental antibody treatment” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/opinion/trump-coronavirus-news.html).

After the president was found to be infected early on Friday, Oct. 2, the public was told, according to Baker and Haberman, that the president would “quarantine in the White House for an unspecified period of time, forcing him to withdraw at least temporarily from the campaign trail only 32 days before the election on Nov. 3.”

Initially, Baker and Haberman write, “the White House physicians did not say whether the president and first lady were experiencing symptoms. The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said he could carry out his duties ‘without disruption’ from the Executive Mansion.” There were reassurances from the White House on Friday afternoon, Oct 2, that “Mr. Trump was experiencing only “mild symptoms.” This account by Conley appears to contradict the reports that the President had a fever and had needed supplemental oxygen. Then on Friday evening, the president was flown by helicopter from the White House to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, suggesting the president’s condition was more serious than Conley was saying.

Since then the information from the hospital medical team, as well as from the administration, has been incomplete and confusing. The New York Times editorial board’s argued that “the American people deserve better than to be misled about the health of the president (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/opinion/trump-coronavirus-news.html).

The first press briefing from Trump’s medical team – and what is left out

Trump’s physicians held a news briefing on Saturday, Oct 3, “overseen by the White House physician Dr. Sean Conley.” The NYT editorial board described it as an upbeat assessment of the president’s health status and where Conley “dodged questions about testing, Mr. Trump’s symptoms and whether the president had ever received supplemental oxygen.” Conley did “issue a ‘timeline clarification,’ suggesting “the president’s disease had been diagnosed on Wednesday – a day earlier than originally thought.” This is a retrospective diagnosis, meaning that the president may not have known until the diagnosis on Friday, Oct 2, that he was infected with the virus. The problem is that Conley will not reveal to the press or public when the president was last tested “negative” or when he was first tested “positive.”

When was Trump first infected? Spreading the infection in largely mask-free settings

Nonetheless, there is some information. Conley told the public that the president may have been infected as early as Wednesday, Sept. 30. Indeed, the symptoms Trump experienced by Friday – which typically occur only 2-7 days or so after the initial infection – suggest that Trump may have been infected back as far as Saturday, Sept. 26, when he nominated conservative Amy Coney Barrett for a position on the Supreme Court at the White House Rose Garden before a crowd of 150 or so dignitaries and others, most of whom were not wearing a mask. He may have already been infected and spreading the disease when he debated Joe Biden on Tuesday, Sept 29. While he and Biden were supposed to be tested before the debate, Trump arrived late and was not tested. Moreover, the president may have been infected when he appeared at the rallies he held during that week.

But he was definitely infected when he presided over the New Jersey fund raiser on Thursday evening, Oct 1. And he must have known that he may have been infected before holding that event. It was revealed earlier on Thursday that Hope Hicks, one of his close advisers, had come down with the disease. Indeed, according to NYT journalists Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, “[i]t is not yet clear when and how Mr. Trump contracted the virus. The president and the first lady said they had both tested positive hours after one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, also tested positive. Ms. Hicks received the diagnosis after she began experiencing symptoms on Wednesday while attending the president’s rally in Minnesota. Mr. Trump kept his appearance there to about 45 minutes, roughly half the length of one of his typical rally speeches” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/us/politics/trump-positive-coronavirus-test.html).

They also point out: “Early Friday morning, it was still unclear how many other aides who had come into close contact with Mr. Trump had tested positive, but the White House said [not verified] its medical unit was conducting contact tracing. Top advisers to the president described themselves as in a state of shock and said they expected a number of additional cases among people in Mr. Trump’s orbit. White House officials had hoped to keep the news about Ms. Hicks from becoming public, to no avail.” Will Feuer writes that by Oct. 8, “The virus has infected ‘34 White House staffers and other contacts” in recent days, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that was obtained by ABC News’” (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/08/president-trump-says-hes-not-contagious-at-all-days-after-leaving-the-hospital-with-coronavirus.html).

The recent contexts in which Trump may have transmitted the virus

September 26 – Reporting for AP, Colin Woodward and Jill Calvin note that a succession of people among the 150 who gathered on September 26 in the Rose Garden for Trump’s introduction of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee for the Supreme Court, have since come down with the coronavirus (https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-donald-trump-joe-biden-archive-cleveland). The AP journalists write: “In the days that followed, a succession of attendees reported they had contracted COVID-19, among them Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and former counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, seen in an AP photo with his arm around another guest while chatting up several face to face, announced his positive virus test this weekend.”

On Tuesday, Sept 29, Trump and Biden and their supporters traveled to Cleveland for the first presidential debate. Hope Hicks was among Trump’s entourage. They were all supposed “to have been tested in advance and come up negative, the Cleveland Clinic officials who served as the debate’s health advisers said in a statement. ‘We had requirements to maintain a safe environment that align with CDC guidelines — including social distancing, hand sanitizing, temperature checks and masking.’” But the Trump group – “his adult children, senior staff and other VIPs — stripped off their masks for the duration of the debate, violating the rules.” During the debate, Trump mocked Biden for being so fastidious about wearing a mask. According to the AP, “Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who attended the debate and helped him prepare with Christie, has tested positive for COVID-19.”

On Wednesday, Sept 30, the AP report continues, “People around Trump are tested daily for the coronavirus and Hicks had her test in the morning, along with the others to be traveling with him for the day [to Minnesota] for a fund raiser and rally. Initially, in Washington D.C., her results were negative. She joined others aboard Marine One for the 15-minute or so flight to Air Force One waiting for them at Joint Base Andrews.” But then, in Minnesota, “Hicks reported feeling unwell.” While “Hicks kept apart from others on the big plane coming back and did not take the crowded Marine One back to the White House once at Andrews,” she had already been in close contact with those in the air and on the ground, including the president.

On Thursday, Oct 1, Hicks got another test on Thursday Morning and it was positive. According to the AP, “[t]he results came not long before the president was set to lift off in Marine One for a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey,” thus affirming “that Trump had been in close proximity to someone infected with the virus.” The AP journalists suggest that Trump was bound to know about Hick’s diagnosis. Normally, the president should have quarantined himself “according to public-health guidelines. But Trump went ahead with the trip. Not only that, but others who had also been around Hicks were not immediately told about her positive test.” At the same time, “[t]he White House worked furiously to swap out staff who had been in close contact with Hicks and replace them with others.” The unmasked guests at the fundraiser were not told about Hick’s infection. It was just hours after the fund-raiser that “Trump publicly confirmed Hicks had tested positive and [also] told Fox News he and his wife had been tested and were prepared to quarantine if necessary.”

On Friday, Oct 2, at 12:54 a.m., Trump tweeted: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Flotus refers to Melania Trump, the first lady, who also has COVID-19.” Hours later, the Trump campaign sent out a letter to “supporters,” writing “We unfortunately write today to notify you that, as you have probably seen, President Trump confirmed late last night that he and the First Lady were tested for COVID-19 and produced positive test results.” The email urged attendees to contact their doctor if they developed symptoms.”

While in the hospital, the president was upbeat about his medical condition

The NYT editorial continues. On Saturday [Oct 3] while in the hospital, Trump himself “issued upbeat comments through Rudy Giuliani, his friend and lawyer. A couple of perky tweets popped up on his Twitter feed. Early Saturday evening, a video of Mr. Trump was posted on Twitter. Wearing a dress shirt and suit jacket, he sat at a table and delivered a four-minute message of reassurance. “I think I’ll be back soon, he predicted, offering thanks for all the good wishes he had received, praising his medical care and even doing a little low-key campaigning.” There is the suspicion that the drugs Trump was taking may have affected his mind and created a sense of euphoria and altered his thinking.

The second press briefing

Then at a second briefing on Sunday, October 4, Dr. Conley provided a bit more detailed account of the president’s condition but “danced around numerous inquiries about precisely how low the president’s blood-oxygen levels had dipped on Friday and then again on Saturday.” Conley said he not to know whether a second round of supplemental oxygen had been administered since Friday but did say “that the president’s oxygenation issues had prompted doctors to start him on a course of dexamethasone, a corticosteroid aimed at reducing inflammation.” At the same time, “he dodged questions about what scans of the president’s lungs showed, saying only that there were ‘expected findings,’” and would not answer questions about when the president last tested negative. This last question is important to answer if there is to be reasonably effective contact tracing.

Oct 5 and 6: Trump gets his way

Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman make three important points in an article published on Oct 5 about Trump leaving the hospital and returning to the White House (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/us/politics/trump-leaves-hospital-coronavirus.html).

#1 – Trump pressed doctors to release him from hospital – “Throughout the weekend, Mr. Trump told the small group of aides with him as well as other advisers and allies he spoke with by telephone that he wanted to leave Walter Reed. He felt trapped in the hospital, the type of setting he typically hates, and pushed to be released on Sunday, only to meet resistance from his doctors, according to people familiar with the discussions. Instead, the medical team cleared him to take a brief ride in his armored sport utility vehicle to wave at the crowd of supporters outside the building.”

#2 – The doctors relent and Trump leaves the hospital – “Mr. Trump emerged from Walter Reed around 6:30 p.m. wearing a dark suit, a blue tie and a white face mask and boarded Marine One for the short flight back to the White House. After landing on the South Lawn, the president climbed the steps to the balcony over the Diplomatic Entrance, where four American flags had been placed, took off his mask, flashed two thumbs up and saluted twice for the benefit of television cameras on the ground below.”

#3 – Trump is still at risk himself – “The effect of combining several drugs is not well understood, especially because two of the treatments administered to Mr. Trump — remdesivir and a monoclonal antibody cocktail — are still experimental. Giving patients multiple treatments at once can increase the chance of harmful interactions or reduce their effectiveness, doctors said.”

The grand entrance

Baker and Haberman describe how Trump acted once back at the White House (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/us/politics/trump-leaves-hospital-coronavirus.html). After taking off his mask, he entered the building “without immediately putting his mask back on even though staff members were nearby and he could still be contagious, according to medical studies of the virus timeline.” He has some of his behavior filmed, and the video “was quickly uploaded to Twitter.” Then, Baker and Haberman recount, “A separate video, set to triumphal music, showed Marine One’s return and his saluting pose, and was posted online within an hour of his landing.” They continue their account as follows.

“The words and visuals were only the latest ways Mr. Trump has undermined public health experts trying to persuade Americans to take the pandemic seriously. Even afflicted by the disease himself, the president who has wrongly predicted that it would simply disappear appeared unchastened as he pressed America to reopen and made no effort to promote precautions.” In the video, he says:” We’re going back to work. We’re going to be out front. As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK. And now I’m better and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives.’ THE LEADER!” The message is that nothing can subdue “me.” It was a way to “cast his illness as an act of courage rather than the predictable outcome of recklessness.” So, he again “took no responsibility for repeatedly ignoring public health guidelines by holding campaign rallies and White House events without masks or social distancing, like the Supreme Court announcement at the White House last month that may have infected a wide array of his aides and allies.”They describe it as a “regret-nothing approach.”

Trump is triumphant – but experts worry

Oct 5 – Dr. Kavita K. Patel, an internal medicine physician at Mary’s Center in Washington, D.C, and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes: The incomplete information that the White House has put out about his health and the obvious deviation from the usual standards of care for covid-19 make it hard to know whether Trump’s treatment is being driven by the best evidence and science — or if decisions are being made based on a political need to project a more upbeat picture that aligns with the president’s blithe message upon returning home from the hospital (and pulling off his mask) Monday: that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of the novel coronavirus and that he felt better than he did 20 years ago” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/10/06/trump-doctors-coronavirus-walter-reed).

Patel also raises concerns about the gaps in the presentations by Conley and the medical team about Trump’s condition and treatment.

“As a doctor who’s treated covid-19, the decision to use those three major agents — an antibody cocktail, an antiviral drug and a high dose of steroids — indicated one thing clearly to me: Trump must have been getting sicker in the hospital. Each of the three major drugs used attack a different aspect of the disease; they attack the virus itself as well as the body’s response to the virus. But all the treatments have some potential harms, including damage to organs, and effects that might be more chronic and last beyond the covid-19 illness itself. Implicit in these decisions is the risk/benefit trade-off that occurs when assessing a patient and determining that the course of their illness merits treatments reserved for severely ill patients — a choice which is not taken lightly.”

That is why many doctors who aren’t working on Trump’s case were stunned at the upbeat discharge from the hospital after a four-day stay — which puts the president squarely in the middle of the typical course of illness — of a patient who has clearly merited therapies for ‘severe covid-19 illness.’ Yes, the president’s home has access to a makeshift operating room down the hall if necessary, but the White House is still materially different from a hospital. Typical length of stays for covid-19 patients who are treated the way Trump was can approach weeks, highlighting how tenuous the course of the disease can be even with the highest level of medical attention.”

Oct 7- 8 – Will Feuer reports for CNBC that Trump has announced “that he’s not contagious ‘at all’ days after he was discharged from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/08/president-trump-says-hes-not-contagious-at-all-days-after-leaving-the-hospital-with-coronavirus.html). He told this to “Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo on a call on Thursday morning” (Oct. 8). Of course, Trump doesn’t know if he is in fact no longer contagious free and will not spread the virus to others.

The CDC says that it is appropriate to discontinue “transmission-based precautions” only after “10 days have passed since the symptoms onset, 24 hours have passed since last fever and other symptoms have improved.” The problem is that the public does not know when the president’s first symptoms arose. According to Feuer, Conley said in a memo on Wednesday “that the president had been fever-free for more than four days and free of symptoms for over 24 hours.” Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, emergency physician, and public health professor at George Washington University, takes a different view and writes that “the president’s comments are ‘truly unbelievable. Just less than a week ago, the president was in a hospital being treated for severe illness. It’s very likely he’s still shedding virus right now.” If it takes 10 days to be transmission-free, then he should be isolated – but isn’t – until next Sunday or Monday.

Further evidence that Trump has been misleading the public about the pandemic for months

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland report on an astounding study released on Thursday, October 1, by researchers at Cornell University. The researchers analyzed 38 million English-language articles from around the world about the pandemic and “found that President Trump was the largest driver of the ‘infodemic, or “falsehoods involving the pandemic” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-misinformation.html). This “is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.” The study was spearheaded by The Cornell Alliance for Science, which is “a nonprofit devoted to using science to enhance food security and improve environmental sustainability.” The journalists report: “One of its aims is to promote science-based decision-making.” Dr. Evanega, the director of the Alliance and the lead author of the study, and a Cornell colleague, Mark Lynas, “partnered with media researchers at Cision, a company that performs media analysis, to conduct the study. Dr. Evanega said the study was being peer reviewed by an academic journal, but the process was lengthy and the authors withdrew it because they felt they had compelling public health information to share.”

The researchers “found that of the more than 38 million articles published from Jan. 1 to May 26, more than 1.1 million — or slightly less than 3 percent — contained misinformation.” Stolberg and Weiland quote Evanega: “The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid” [and] “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.” This included misinformation involving “various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, and another that purported to trace the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, to people who ate bat soup.” However, the most prevalent topic of misinformation “was ‘miracle cures,’ including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.” The journalists write: “The researchers identified more than 11,000 misinformation articles involving Dr. Fauci, as compared with more than 295,000 involving miracle cures. There were more than 40,000 articles that mentioned the purported Democratic hoax, and more than 6,000 mentioning bat soup, which was the topic of a video that made the rounds on social media in the winter.”

One of the main concerns of the Cornell researchers is such misinformation undermines the “clear, concise and accurate information [that] is the foundation of an effective response to an outbreak of infectious disease.” They suggest this may account for how poorly the US has done to contain the spread of the virus.

Timelines and fact-checks document Trump’s many deceptive and inaccurate statements on the coronavirus

A number of writers have compiled Trump’s statements on the pandemic, from the first to the more recent, to demonstrate how misleading, inaccurate, or confusing they have been. For example, see Christian Paz’s extensive report in The Atlantic magazine, titled “All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus” (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/10/trumps-lies-about-coronavirus/608647).

Another informative source on such information is provided by Lloyd Doggett, representative in the US Congress of the 35th District of Texas. He has compiled an extensive “Timeline,” including decisions made before Covid-19 was first identified up to the present when the president learns he has been infected by the virus (https://doggett.house.gov/media-center/blog-posts/timeline-trump-s-coronavirus-responses). Doggett’s catalogue covers more detail than other such efforts. It documents Trump’s poor leadership in this unfolding crisis.

The impact of the pandemic reveals the lack of presidential leadership and ineffective national policies

As of Oct 3, 2020, the CDC counted 7,310,625 reported cases and 208,118 deaths, with the number of cases rising over the previous 7 days by 301,539 (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases). As widely reported that US leads the world in the number of cases and deaths. On October 1, there were a total of 1,018,793 deaths from the virus worldwide. The US accounted for 20.8% of the total, even though it has only 4.23% of the world’s population.

The numbers are devastating, but they may represent an under-estimation of the full extent of the pandemic’s impacts. What I wrote in my post of May 12, 2020, “COVID-19 remains a pandemic as Trump pushes to reopen the broken economy,” rings as true today.

“However bad the COVID-19 the actual and expected trends, the situation is even worse than they indicate. Most of the data on confirmed cases is limited to those who have had symptoms and have sought treatment, are in work setting that have had outbreaks such as in meat packing plants, nursing homes, long-term facilities, jails and prisons. The data do not include those with the virus who have no symptoms but who can “shed” or spread the virus to others, representing perhaps another 15,000 to 20,000 cases. There are only now some efforts to track down those who have had the disease, shown no symptoms, but may have anti-bodies in their blood. And it has not yet been scientifically established whether people who have had the virus, diagnosed or not, are immune or how long they may be immune. Furthermore, there has been virtually no “contact tracing” to identify those in the population who have had recent associations with people who have been infected and who therefore could also be contagious. There are even questions about the data on documented deaths from the virus. Some unknown number of people have died in their homes of the virus without ever being diagnosed with the disease. In short, the current pandemic is worse than the official and expert estimates, the incidence and prevalence of the disease overall is likely to increase over the next two months. And, if the efforts to limit contact, stay-at-home, social distancing, wearing masks, and personal hygiene are not diligently followed, the experts tell us that the COVID-19 infections will spike upward again.”

In addition, there is now evidence that those who have been counted as “recovered” may suffer ongoing physical and mental problems. Thom Hartmann refers to evidence that some people who are said to have recovered from the infection suffer from such maladies as: damage to the heart, damage to the brain even dementia, the lose of taste and smell for months, chronic fatigue, and damage to toes and fingers  (https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/09/30/a-covid-primer-for-your-trump-loving-friends).

If current trends continue, as they are now, far more people will be infected, health care systems will be stretched to its limits and beyond, and the economic and health problems will escalate and proliferate.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: the pandemic will afflict the society for months to come

According to interviews on CNN with Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 land perhaps the most trusted source of information on the pandemic, Fauci thinks that the pandemic will continue to impact society until at least the end of 2021 (https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-09-11-12-intl).

He is quoted as follows: “I believe that we will have a vaccine that will be available by the end of this year, the beginning of next year.” But there is a caveat: “By the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccinations, and you get the majority, or more, of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen to the mid or end of 2021.”

And in another interview, he told CNN that he disagreed with Trump’s remarks that the US has “rounded the final turn” of the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci replied that he had “to disagree with that,” emphasizing that the “baseline of infections of 40,000 per day” and the “increased test positivity in certain regions of the country — such as the Dakotas and Montana and places like that” puts the country in “a more precarious situation, like the fall and the winter” … “when people will be spending more time indoors, and that’s not good for a respiratory-borne virus.”

Concluding thoughts

As of October 8, Trump appears to be doubling down on his false and misleading statements about his own health and, as he tells the public, we can “dominate” the virus and resume our normal, pre-covid ways of living. He wants to play down the seriousness of the pandemic to enhance his electoral prospects. But his reelection ambitions will be undercut by the mounting evidence of the continuing pandemic. So, we can expect that he will do anything to either promote the notion that cures (however poorly tested) are on the verge of appearing, such as, a vaccine that  would give Americans some reason to hope for a reversal of the trends before the end of the year, or by promoting other issues that distract attention from the coronavirus epidemic (e.g., alleged fraudulent mail-in ballots). What is clear is that Trump and his allies will not give up easily, as they mount and finance a campaign to steal the election whatever the electoral outcome in November. Thus, Americans have only one option to prevent this from happening, that is, voting in huge numbers for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. This will reduce the chances that Trump will steal the election and give the Democrats an opportunity to address the pandemic honestly and forthrightly. Though they’ll need a supportive Senate and House as well.

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