There’s good news and bad news out of Germany. The good news is, the country’s cautious reopening appears to be working. Since the easing of restrictions implemented two weeks ago, infection rates are not only stable but decreasing.
The bad news is, Donald Trump isn’t German Chancellor Angela Merkel—and we’re not Germany.
“We have reached the goal of slowing the spread of the virus, of protecting our health care system from being overwhelmed,” Merkel said Wednesday at a press conference, according to The New York Times. Germany had reached a point where most of its economy could be reopened and public life could be safely resumed. “We can afford a little audacity,” Merkel said.
Ever since the coronavirus hit Europe with varying degrees of ferocity and many countries in the region shut down their economies to slow the spread of the disease, Western nations have been wondering if a safe reopening could be achieved and some sense of normalcy could resume. The answer out of Germany appears to be: yes, there are ways to live alongside this virus—even before a vaccine emerges and it can be completely eradicated.
The news also provided hope across Europe that as Germany’s economy revs back up, some of the worst economic devastation caused by the virus can be avoided. Masks and some social distancing precautions will remain, but all shops will be free to open, including restaurants and hotels, and schooling will also resume for a bit before the summer break. Details of exactly how and when to reopen different aspects of society are being left up to the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.
But the successes of Germany’s federal government are a stark reminder of the failures of the U.S. government under Trump, particularly in the area of testing. One of the hallmarks of Germany’s recovery has been rigorous, systematic testing and tracing along with quick quarantining of people who test positive, and early interventions with patients who begin to experience complications.
Merkel, for instance, announced an “emergency mechanism” that would kick in if any region reaches the point of surpassing a rate of 50 new daily infections per 100,000 residents. Restrictions would then be restored until the region was able to bring the new infection rate below 50 again for seven continuous days.
“If locally something happens, we won’t wait until it has spread through the whole republic but we act locally,” she said.
Germany is enacting these guidelines because it has the infrastructure to do so—it has the testing resources, a high enough per capita testing rate, and the medical capacity to treat those infected in a safe and effective manner. Germany’s rate of daily new infections also peaked in late March and has been falling ever since, while new infections in the U.S. have effectively plateaued in the same time frame.
The lesson out of Germany is the polar opposite of the load of garbage Trump is selling. Germany is proving that the health of the population and the health of the economy are intimately connected, rather than the notion that they are competitors in a zero-sum game.
Of course, Trump is foisting the false choice between the public’s physical health and a recovering economy on the American people because he has completely and utterly failed to provide any of the infrastructure necessary to get the two forces working in harmony amid a pandemic.
Indeed, instead of laying out any specific guidelines for a safe reopening, the White House has purposely deep-sixed the parameters set out by the Centers for Disease Control. Harvard’s Global Health Institute released estimates Thursday showing that just nine states (mostly larger and less populated) had achieved even the bare minimum of testing necessary to even consider reopening: Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Still, having minimally adequate testing fails to address how any surges in infections would be addressed or even whether the capacity to address them exists. Trump is also ignoring the apocalyptic warnings coming from within his own administration about rushing to reopen before putting those controls in place.
So instead of outlining a national approach to handling any new infection spikes, Trump is simply embracing increased mortality as a consequence of an economic reopening, saying more deaths “could very well be the case.”
It doesn’t have to be that way, and Germany is proving it. Remember when America was the great innovator—the envy of the world? No more. Trump has consigned our country to a level of dysfunction that produces consistently less-than-mediocre and often dismal results. We are on course to be the envy of no one, ever, except other authoritarian regimes that wish they could plunder America’s resources the way Trump and his coterie of bloodsuckers are.