On Friday morning, Donald Trump came out for a victory lap because the unemployment rate is only 13.3%. The unexpected dip in the unemployment rate is being taken as validation of the decision to “reopen” America, not just by Trump, but by a whole squadron of right-wing pundits who are filling airwaves and social media with a flood of celebratory told-you-so. So now that Donald Trump has declared the COVID-19 pandemic “largely over,” determined that he “made every decision correctly,” taken credit for states that shut down to protect their citizens, declared that every state should be like Florida, and given his thanks to Jared for working so hard to solve this problem … there’s really nothing left to do. That coronavirus thing is over.
Over … so long as no one points out that more than 1,000 Americans are still dying every day, that multiple reopened states are seeing rates return to levels that are higher than they were before lockdowns began, and that miracle state Florida just had its worst day ever.
But it’s not like there’s anyone left to point these things out to Trump, because Dr. Anthony Fauci and the whole COVID-19 response team have been “sidelined.”
If it seems like it’s been a while since you saw an informed person giving a reasonable analysis of the pandemic situation from anywhere near the White House, you’re not wrong. As Bloomberg points out, the entire coronavirus task force has “all but vanished” as Trump has flipped his switch to the “I already fixed that, move on” position.
Not only is Trump not stepping in front of the cameras to make regular misstatements about conditions, endorsements of conspiracy theories, and recommendations on drugs you really shouldn’t take—the few voices that were giving any usable information have also gone silent. The last briefing from the task force was, incredibly, all the way back on April 27, over a month ago. At that briefing, Trump predicted that total American deaths from the pandemic would be between 60,000 and 70,000 while explaining that “we’ve done a great job.”
Rather than daily public appearances, the task force is now restricted to a single meeting a week. In private. With Mike Pence. Fauci made his last appearance at the White House on April 29 and his last public appearance a week later, when he warned about the dangers of reopening too quickly.
Don’t expect to see any new emphasis on COVID-19 deaths no matter what happens at this point or how broiling the national Hot Zone becomes. As The Wall Street Journal notes, Trump has already moved on. He’s already ruled out the idea of making any significant response to an increase in cases or deaths. Despite the highly-repeatable fact that more than 1,000 Americans are dying every day and the number of cases is increasing, Trump has “made a strategic decision” to turn to issues that “will animate the president’s conservative base ahead of the election …”
In his Friday morning address to the nation (the one in which he said this was a great day for George Floyd, talked about people mowing their lawns right after hurricanes, and mulled over the idea of driving Melania around in an RV) Trump gave out a hearty round of self-congratulations about how he immediately saw the need for a lockdown, saved 2 million people, and beat COVID-19. No thanks to healthcare workers, scientists, or anyone else. If you missed the part where Trump declared his sorrow over 100,000 Americans dying, that’s because it didn’t happen. Trump also isn’t going to back away one step from his commitment to policies backed by conspiracy theories that are a decided risk to public health.
Trump is simultaneously praising states that have reopened, pressuring governors to reopen faster, and silencing medical experts. And he’s already committed himself to not responding strongly to a second wave—and we’re not even out of the first wave.