A little part of me grudgingly admires that he’s stuck to this message to the bitter end. Apart from his persona, his sanguine messaging on coronavirus is his single biggest liability of the election. If he loses next week, I could probably be persuaded that it was the deciding factor — that, notwithstanding the boorish tweets and embarrassing lack of decorum, the country would have reelected him easily if he had taken a “safety first” approach to the virus from the start. No doubt his advisors have begged him, and are still begging him, to reflect the public’s anxiety in his comments about the pandemic, particularly at a moment when the long-feared winter wave is beginning to crash. “Just pretend to care. A little.”
He won’t do it. “I gotta be me,” I imagine him telling them.
That should be his campaign slogan, really. “Make America Great Again, Again” is … memorable, but “Trump 2020: I Gotta Be Me” is the true theme of a second term if he gets one.
The “conspiracy” here, I think, is the idea that the media supposedly won’t report on the fact that COVID is rarely lethal, especially in people under 80. But they have reported on that: It was left-wing NPR that flagged two studies last week showing that the fatality rate from the disease is much lower now than it was in spring, as doctors have gotten better at treating it. But it’s still killing people, and may kill more Americans this winter than it did this summer for the simple reason that the virus is apt to spread more widely in the months ahead than it did in the months behind us. Last Thursday we topped 1,000 dead in a day, the highest number in weeks. Trump celebrating the percentage of young people who survive while the national death toll is creeping up again sends an interesting message to senior citizens about how much of a priority they are for him.
Also, while it’s nice that his stay at Walter Reed was comfortable and successful…
Trump on Covid: "I mean, I got it and I'm here. We have great medicines and therapeutics. The first lady got it…you know who else got it? Barron. My very tall son."
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) October 26, 2020
…many people fear going to the hospital and would rather avoid getting a disease with a reasonable chance of sending them there. Hospitalizations in the U.S. are up 33 percent in less than a month, rising from an average of 30,000 a day in late September to 40,000 now.
In Utah, they’re making plans to ration hospital care because they can’t cope with the number of sick. “Under the criteria, which would require [Gov. Gary] Herbert’s approval, patients who are getting worse despite receiving intensive care would be moved out [of the ICU] first,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune. “In the event that two patients’ conditions are equal, the young get priority over the old, since older patients are more likely to die.” Here’s what the positivity rate in Utah looks like right now:
The national positivity rate has increased from 4.3 percent towards the start of this month to 6.2 percent now. If Trump were right that case counts are rising only because testing is increasing, that rate should be flat. The fact that case counts in Europe are also trending stratospheric at the moment suggests that the increase we’re experiencing isn’t a function of testing but a true winter wave that’s hit them hard already and is descending here. But he’s never going to let go of this talking point about testing driving case counts, which he’s been hammering for months. I gotta be me.
I wrote on Friday about the U.S. setting a new daily record in cases but this graph illustrates the point more succinctly. Remember that Massachusetts was blitzed by the same spring wave that crushed New York and New Jersey. If there was widespread immunity there as a consequence, we shouldn’t be seeing data like this:
This is COVID found in Boston sewage. This is a hard to fake measure that is immune to increased testing rates over time. Very bad news – this virus is starting to look awfully seasonal :-/ https://t.co/HVn1xsNmhy
— William Eden (@WilliamAEden) October 25, 2020
Nonetheless, he’s sticking with his closing argument: This new wave of COVID is no big deal, assuming it even exists, and you’re sort of a pussy for worrying about it.
Trump: No it’s not going to be a dark winter. It’s going to be a great winter pic.twitter.com/WGGOojV56F
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 26, 2020
One day after the US set a single-day record for new coronavirus cases, Trump claims the US is “rounding the corner beautifully” with regard to the pandemic pic.twitter.com/ntMrqoarm5
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 23, 2020
Trump: “You know what? On November 4th, you’re not gonna hear– the news, CNN, all they talk about, ‘Covid Covid Covid.’ If a plane goes down with 500 people, they don’t talk about … they’re trying to scare everybody. You have to lead your life, and you have to get out.” pic.twitter.com/SL5ndWz7Bu
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 24, 2020
If a plane carrying 500 people went down, the media would be talking about it. If two planes carrying 500 people went down every day, and had been going down every day since April, I feel like we’d be hearing a lot about that and what it says about commercial aviation and the government’s oversight of it.
And if two planes carrying 500 people went down every day for seven months and the president was on the stump suggesting that it should be illegal for the media not to cover the fact that most airline passengers arrive safely, we’d be hearing an awful lot about that.
Still, points for honesty. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to have had an opportunistic eleventh-hour “Saul on the road to Damascus” conversion after he got COVID himself, as seems to have happened to Chris Christie. Not POTUS. He got right back on the horse and continued his journey. He’s minimized the pandemic from the beginning and he’s owning that message in the end. Good for him.