President Donald Trump did not appear overly concerned Wednesday about the resurging coronavirus pandemic. “I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope,” he said in an interview with Fox Business.
The White House claims the president is the “most informed person on the planet,” but Trump’s comments conflict with increasingly urgent warnings from health experts — including those in Trump’s administration — that the virus is spreading at alarming rates and that, without immediate intervention, Americans will continue to get sick and die.
“I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 cases a day if this does not turn around,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday.
Earlier this week, a high-ranking official at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a stunning warning that, in the emerging second spike of coronavirus infections, it was essentially too late to test and isolate cases. “We have way too much virus across the country for that right now,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, on Monday.
“This is really the beginning,” Schuchat said of the recent U.S. surge. “I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, hey, it’s summer, everything’s going to be fine, we’re over this. And we are not even beginning to be over this. There are a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so.”
Numbers across the country are skyrocketing, particularly in states that had begun to reopen businesses and activities.
In the last 24 hours, Arizona saw a spike of 4,878 cases of COVID-19 and 88 deaths — on the same day Vice President Mike Pence visited the state. Houston intensive care units are currently shifting resources to address a patient overflow, and Louisiana saw its greatest spike in cases in over three months.
A handful of states ― Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Tennessee and Utah ― recorded their highest infection rates, and as of last Saturday, 32 states experienced a surge in cases the week prior.
A taco shop in Los Angeles closed both of its locations on Sunday after overwhelming antagonism from customers who refused to wear masks. On Sunday morning, several videos went viral after unhinged white women all across the country were filmed throwing tantrums at places like Trader Joe’s and Starbucks when asked to mask up. In Denver, a 16-year-old ice cream shop employee was reportedly spat on by a similarly outraged anti-mask vigilante, and at a store in Charlotte, North Carolina, a woman refused a complimentary mask handed to her by an employee and instead spat her chewing gum into it.
“The ones that don’t want to wear a mask should have every right not to wear one if they don’t feel like they want to wear one,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) said on Wednesday, and North Carolina Republicans are pulling out all the stops to actually make wearing a mask illegal.
More than 200 people in West Virginia have been asked to self-quarantine after one Planet Fitness gym-goer exposed them all to COVID-19. Experts have implored young people ― like the many in South Carolina who now make up more than half of the state’s cases ― to take the virus more seriously.
A Washington, D.C., socialite hosted a catered dinner, tested positive shortly after the event and has now infected an unknown number of attendees, most of whom were unmasked.
The CDC called out American Airlines for returning to full capacity bookings, and as the European Union prepares to reopen its borders, it has banned Americans from visiting Europe as the virus rages.
If anything, the stark state numbers don’t illustrate the true nature of the problem. “The official tally of deaths due to COVID-19 represent a substantial undercount of the true burden,” Dan Weinberger, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health and a lead author of a study published on Wednesday, told CNBC.
In the face of these outbreaks, the demand for COVID-19 tests has quickly outpaced the supply of testing kits and the ability to actually process them, resulting in a slower turnaround and an overall backlog of untested kits.
“I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, hey, it’s summer, everything’s going to be fine, we’re over this. And we are not even beginning to be over this.”
This has led to some states reversing early reopening phases. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Wednesday that 19 counties would need to shut down all indoor operations after cases rose 43% in two weeks.
The new virus surge is essentially the worst of both worlds: The economic disaster that resulted from the shutdowns affected millions, but officials apparently didn’t use the time to sufficiently prepare to keep the virus at bay. Absent more financial assistance, economic indicators could continue to plummet. Unless Congress passes Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass) proposed eviction moratorium, the number of unhoused people in America will reach unprecedented levels.
Many elected officials are reversing the course on their reopening phases, hoping it’s not too little and too late.
Newsom, as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), said Wednesday that restaurants would not open for indoor seating. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that the state would hold off on its second phase of reopening ― which included bars and movie theaters ― until at least July 15.
While elected officials continue to tinker with reopening plans, public health experts like Fauci and Schuchat say that until there’s a vaccine ― which isn’t likely to happen in 2020 ― the best way to avoid contracting or passing along the virus remains simple: practice social distancing (especially in congregate settings), wash your hands often and thoroughly, and wear a damn mask.
Health experts continue to warn that too many elected leaders across the country have naively allowed nonessential businesses to reopen — practically jumping up and down to warn of the growing disaster that, despite Trump’s wishful thinking, will not just go away.
This surge “is going to be very disturbing,” Fauci said.
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