"[A] stinging blow to American prestige": Newly reopened EU may bar U.S. travelers due to virus concerns

"[A] stinging blow to American prestige": Newly reopened EU may bar U.S. travelers due to virus concerns

We’re supposed to take offense at this, I guess, but Trump’s decision to bar travel from Europe back in March when their outbreak was spiking was obviously correct, if several weeks too late. Under the present circumstances a decision by Europe to bar travel from the U.S. would be obviously correct too. The Times clearly means to rub Trump’s face in it with language about “a stinging blow to American prestige,” but it’s a simple numbers game.

And the numbers ain’t great.

Do you have any idea how terrible America’s epidemic needs to be relative to Europe’s right now for the EU to leave billions of dollars of American tourist dollars on the table rather than allow us over there? And yet here we are:

We’re a country that produces people by the millions who went to parties on Memorial Day weekend in the middle of a national pandemic and have refused to wear germ-suppressing masks on grounds that it’s a socialist conspiracy or something. The Europeans should ban us for the rest of the year on principle.

[A ban], which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States, which has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country…

President Trump, as well as his Russian and Brazilian counterparts, Vladimir V. Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, have followed what critics call a comparable path in their pandemic response that leaves all three countries in a similarly bad spot: they were dismissive at the outset of the crisis, slow to respond to scientific advice and saw a boom of domestic cases as other parts of the world, notably in Europe and Asia, were slowly managing to get their outbreaks under control.

Countries on the E.U. draft lists have been selected as safe based on a combination of epidemiological criteria. The benchmark is the E.U. average number of new infections — over the past 14 days — per 100,000 people, which is currently 16 for the bloc. The comparable number for the United States is 107, while Brazil’s is 190 and Russia’s is 80, according to a Times database.

One list contains 47 countries and includes only those nations with an infection rate lower than the E.U. average. The other longer list has 54 countries and also includes those nations with slightly worse case rates than the E.U. average, going up to 20 new cases per 100,000 people.

China, Russia, Brazil, and Uncle Sam would all be excluded under either of the two draft proposals being considered. And considering how far we are from meeting the proposed prevalence threshold, it seems likely that Americans won’t be allowed back into Europe for many months to come. If my math is correct, in order to meet the EU benchmark of 20 new cases per 100,000 people, we’d need to average around 4,700 new cases nationally over a two-week period. Right now we’re averaging over 25,000, more than five times that number. According to the CDC website, the last time we had fewer than 4,700 cases in a day was during the first week of the pandemic that cases were tracked, on March 20. Since the end of March, the lowest single-day number of infections we’ve seen is 13,284.

In light of how both the federal government and the general population seem to have given up on trying to hammer down the curve, whether because doing so would cause too much economic damage or just because that’s the level of spavined decadence our culture has reached, I can’t even imagine a scenario in which we get to fewer than 5,000 infections a day consistently. What could or would happen that might reduce new cases this year by 80 percent and hold them at the level as the weather turns colder this fall? If summer heat isn’t doing it and more widespread wearing of masks isn’t doing it and scary outbreaks in Arizona and Texas and Florida aren’t doing it, nothing’s going to do it. Either the pharmaceutical industry bails us out with some sort of miracle COVID suppressant until the vaccine is ready, like an antibody therapy, or no one’s going to London or Paris until next year.

The people who can afford trips as luxe as that will just have to make do with Aspen or Key West or Martha’s Vineyard instead. Good news, though: Trump and Martha McSally will make sure that Uncle Sam picks up the tab for them.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s five a half contentious minutes on testing between CNN and Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 20, 2023