When people are afraid and either can’t access or afford health care—as is the case for many Americans in a pandemic that’s overwhelming hospitals and leaving millions of people unemployed—we become especially amenable to suggestion, desperate to cling to hope. Even more so than usual, our capacities for analytic reasoning become skewed by what we want to believe. Some people have abandoned life-saving social-distancing or hygiene practices because they’re convinced the threat is gone, or that it was never real to begin with. Large groups now march in demand that we immediately and categorically “reopen America.”
There is hope and clarity to be had, though. Drugs that impede the virus or modulate the immune system are being studied across the country. Many Americans have meticulously followed advice to clean surfaces with bleach and their hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The tragedy of Trump’s musings is less about their incoherence than about the opportunities wasted—the loss of a platform that could have been used to help Americans make sense of this dire moment.