I’m tempted to call this a sign of things to come for him but I don’t know how many more events Team Bernie will realistically want to hold going forward if the polling from Michigan proves accurate tonight.
Asking crowds to show up for a political campaign while an epidemic is growing is bad. Asking crowds to show up for a zombie political campaign while an epidemic is growing is unconscionable. Bernie 2020 is likely to have joined the walking dead before the evening is out.
So maybe he won’t have to worry about this problem for long. Biden will — although if Sanders quits soon, obviously that’ll take pressure off Joe to host many new rallies until the general election campaign gets rolling in earnest.
“Out of concern for public health and safety, we are canceling tonight’s rally in Cleveland,” communications director Mike Casca said in a statement. “We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak. Sen. Sanders would like to express his regret to the thousands of Ohioans who had planned to attend the event tonight.”
He said future events for Sanders’ presidential campaign “will be evaluated on a case by case basis.”
Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, announced just a few hours ago that it’s time to start limiting crowds:
Through the limiting of large events, our goal is to dramatically slow down the spread of #COVID19 and save lives. Now is the time to take action. #COVID19OhioReady
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 10, 2020
The truth is that #COVID19 is dangerous. We can't ignore it. We can't wish it away. We have to call it as it is.
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 10, 2020
Biden’s campaign also canceled a rally tonight in Cleveland shortly after Bernie’s did. Good for both of them in leading by example, especially Sanders since he’s the one who’s playing from behind and needs every weapon at hand. (It’s also wise for two guys in their late seventies to avoid crowds right now.) No matter what happens tonight, the coming month will be interesting from a campaign standpoint. If Bernie decides to keep going, whether because this evening’s outcome is encouraging or because he just refuses to quit, presumably the number of rallies he holds will diminish. Will he try to campaign “virtually,” with YouTube events or whatever, or will he continue to hold live rallies but more sparingly? I’m guessing Biden will cut way back on live events regardless, possibly even down to zero, since he doesn’t really need them anymore to win and not having to do them will reduce the opportunity for new “he’s lost something off his fastball” gaffes. This is a guy who won 10 states on Super Tuesday without advertising or staffing up in some of them. He can get by fine without rallies.
The X factor is Trump, as always. If he sees Democrats begging off of rallies in the name of public health, instinctively he’s going to want to prove that he’s more daring or whatever by continuing to hold them. “Don’t do this,” his health advisors will say. “You need to lead by example at a moment when we’re asking Americans to sacrifice as a community. If you’re still holding rallies while we’re begging people to isolate themselves, they’ll decide that either the risk of contagion isn’t that high or that it’s not fair that you get to keep having your fun while they’re being asked to give up theirs. It’s time to be a leader on this disease.”
He’ll probably ignore them and keep holding rallies. And Biden and other Democrats will mercilessly torch him for it. Maybe that’ll finally convince him to stop: Once the price of holding the rallies begins to affect him personally in the form of political pain, that’s when he’ll change his behavior.
Meanwhile, in America’s hottest coronavirus hot spot, the governor of Washington finally announced some small but sensible measures today to try to contain the spread of the disease. One visit a day for nursing-home residents from now on, and that visitor has to be screened for coronavirus before entering. Nursing-home staff will also be screened regularly. Which is nice, but Jay Inslee is still behind the curve on the sort of aggressive “social distancing” measures that governors like DeWine are now promoting. And he still hasn’t done anything as aggressive as the “containment area” that Andrew Cuomo is instituting in New Rochelle to identify sick residents before they go out and spread the disease. He’s hearing about it too from experts like Scott Gottlieb:
New York under the leadership of Governor Cuomo is taking some of the strongest and sensible mitigation steps in U.S. to slow spread of #coronavirus epidemic. It stands in stark contrast to Washington State, which has been slow to act forcefully in Seattle https://t.co/2tX0D4aFV0
— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) March 10, 2020
Inslee does at least understand the grim math involved here, as you’ll see in about 90 seconds of the clip below. Six days ago, genetic modeling suggested around 600 hidden infections or so in the Seattle area. Coronavirus infections are projected to double every six days or so without aggressive “social distancing” in the population so now there’s an estimated 1,100 infections in Seattle or thereabouts. Build out that math week by week and you get to 64,000 infections as soon as May thanks to the magic of exponential growth. Of course, if people start isolating conscientiously then the math can change dramatically:
Hello from South Korea. It took about a week-and-a-half to get the coronavirus under control with large-scale testing, closing schools, wearing masks, etc.
Why are the experts so confident that this can't be contained?
— Nathan Cofnas (@nathancofnas) March 10, 2020
Why Inslee is waiting to call for an end to large gatherings until testing is running full throttle, I have no idea.
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