President Donald Trump’s top health advisers say that the coronavirus pandemic has driven America to its knees amid a disturbing surge in cases. But Trump is ignoring the new danger, instead using the worst domestic crisis in decades as a racist punchline.
Political mismanagement of the situation, the glaring lack of a national strategy and the nation’s exhausting, inconclusive struggle with the coronavirus was reflected Tuesday in three key developments.
Fully half of US states are now seeing rising cases of the disease with the situation especially acute in Texas, Florida and Arizona, which embraced aggressive reopening programs.
The European Union, which has been more successful than the US in suppressing Covid-19, warned it might bar visitors from America in what would be a major embarrassment for Trump.
And the President persisted with his counter-logical argument that the US is only seeing more cases of the virus because it is doing more testing, leaving the implication that it would be better if rising cases, infections and ultimately deaths were simply ignored.
Trump spent the day in Arizona and held a rally in Phoenix, a city where mask wearing is mandatory in public.
But he refused to don a face covering, along with many supporters who attended his indoor event.
And he delighted his fans by reciting a racist name for the virus referencing its origin in China.
“Kung flu?” Trump said, prompting roars from his crowd.
It was a different story in Washington as the government’s top infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, made what is becoming an increasingly rare public appearance in an official capacity in a hearing on Capitol Hill and warned — contrary to Trump’s assurances that the disease is “fading” and “dying out” — that “we’re now seeing a disturbing surge of infections.”
Fauci, who has consistently expressed concern at the wave of aggressive economic openings championed by the President, warned that the next couple of weeks “are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we’re seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona, and in other states. They’re not the only ones that are having a difficulty.”
Increasing cases of the virus, which do not represent the “second wave” medical experts have long feared but more a broadening of the first wave that crashed onto coastal cities and urban areas, are beginning to frame up a daunting question for state and national political leaders: will the situation get so bad that a return to more restrictive and even stay at home measures will need to be considered?
Such a step — by mostly Republican state governors, some of whom have pledged there will be no return to lockdowns — would cause a huge confrontation with the President, who sees a rapid economic resurgence as vital to his hopes of winning a second term.
States like Arizona, Texas and Florida are moving in the wrong direction, and there are increasing warnings that if they remain on their current course that hospitals could be overwhelmed in weeks and months to come, leaving leaders with agonizing choices of whether to reverse openings or to somehow surge medical capacity to deal with an increasing death toll.
Texas recorded a new single day record of 5,489 new infections. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a key Trump ally, warned Monday that daily positive cases, hospitalizations, and the positivity rate were all spiking in the Lone Star State and could require serious action.
“If we were to experience another doubling of those numbers over the next month, that would mean that we are in an urgent situation where tougher actions will be required to make sure that we do contain the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
But Lina Hidalgo, a judge in Harris County that includes the city of Houston, warned that authorities didn’t have a month to wait.
“We are in the second-highest level of threat, of concern,” Hidalgo told CNN’s John King on Tuesday.