For months, as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 continued to soar, President Donald Trump and his allies insisted that the media and Democrats were blowing the coronavirus pandemic out of proportion to hurt the president’s reelection chances.
“On November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore,” Trump said of COVID-19 at a campaign rally last month in North Carolina.
It’s now Nov. 6. Daily COVID-19 infections in the U.S. are at record highs. Americans are still dying. Tens of thousands of businesses remain shuttered. And people are still very much talking about it. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made the pandemic a key focus of his remarks to the press on Thursday.
But as they flail to sow doubt about 2020 election results, Trump’s allies have resurrected the lie that coverage of the ongoing pandemic has been overblown, used by Democrats take down the president, and would disappear after the election.
“Whatever happened to COVID?” Steve Milloy, a prominent climate change and science denier who served on Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, tweeted on Thursday, as the nation recorded a staggering 121,000 new coronavirus infections.
Other Trump supporters have peddled similar nonsense.
“On the plus side, I haven’t heard ‘Covid’ mentioned as much today,” Michael Biundo, a former Trump advisor, tweeted on Wednesday. “Election chaos is a nice change of pace.”
“Can we all admit that the pandemic is over now? Like at least give us that as you peddle the rest of this nonsense,” conservative political commentator Dave Rubin said on Thursday.
Even Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell joined in. “Anyone notice that the Dems stopped talking about COVID?” he pondered on Friday.
It is Trump who has remained silent about the pandemic since Tuesday’s election, instead spending his time attacking the democratic process. Biden, on the other hand, is receiving daily briefings on the coronavirus and addressed it at the start of his Thursday speech.
“We’re reminded again of the severity of this pandemic,” he said. “Cases are on the rise nationwide and we’re nearly 240,000 deaths due to COVID. And our hearts go out to each and every family who has lost a loved one to this terrible disease.”
Conservatives’ conspiratorial claims are part of a broader right-wing misinformation campaign to delegitimize the election results ― a seed that Trump and his family planted months ago.
In May, Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, insisted that Democrats’ focus on the pandemic was about keeping his father from holding campaign rallies. “They will milk it every single day between now and November 3rd,” the younger Trump said. “And guess what, after November 3rd, coronavirus will magically, all of the sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
And late last month, the president attacked the media for focusing on COVID-19, insisting without evidence that it was a plot to “create fear” ahead of the election.
“That’s all I hear about now,” Trump said at the North Carolina rally. “Turn on television, ‘COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID’ ... By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore.”
Needless to say, the pandemic is anything but over. It is raging from coast to coast, thanks in no small part to the Trump administration’s botched response. Records are being shattered nearly ever day and new cases have topped 100,000 for three consecutive days. As of Friday, the disease had killed 235,000 Americans, and more than 1,100 on Thursday alone.
Any suggestions that the virus suddenly disappeared, or that the media is no longer covering the crisis, are absurd. That they are coming from supporters of a president on the brink of defeat and who has spent months downplaying the pandemic is telling.
As Trump’s chances of winning a second term withered this week, his campaign and its supporters have done everything they can to sow doubt about the integrity of the 2020 election. They’ve made sweeping claims of widespread voter fraud, of “magical sacks” of ballots suddenly being “found,” without producing a shred of credible evidence to back up their desperate conspiracy. They’ve filed lawsuits in multiple states to stop legitimately cast votes from being counted ― a naked effort to steal the election and undermine American democracy. And they’ve thrown temper tantrums outside polling locations, claiming that they aren’t being given enough access to monitor vote counting: They’ve insisted on being closer to poll workers at a time when health experts are pleading with people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Health experts have responded to the assertions that COVID-19 would disappear.
“It’s November 5th. COVID didn’t disappear,” Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, wrote on Twitter. “This isn’t a hoax. This is abject failure.”
A recent report from Columbia University estimated that the “abject failures” of government agencies under Trump has so far resulted in between 130,000 and 210,000 avoidable deaths attributable to COVID-19.