Donald Trump has declared the COVID-19 pandemic over. He hasn’t talked to his coronavirus response team in over two weeks, he’s returned to claims that it will just magically go away, and he’s back to holding sweaty mask-free rallies complete with plenty of racism sauce. Unfortunately, the rest of the nation doesn’t have hundreds of Secret Service agents and campaign staffers willing to take a
bullet virus for them. As nice as it would be to pretend this is over, it’s not.
One day after Trump’s Phoenix rally, Arizona has set a new record for maximum number of deaths—and all the numbers aren’t yet in, Los Angeles is vying to replace New York City as the nation’s COVID capital with a case rate that’s matching that of the rest of California, Texas seems to be setting a record in setting new records, and Florida … Florida just beat its single-day record by 1,500. Across the country, there are signs that some states are realizing that reopening has been as effective as installing a screen door on a submarine, but even as Republican governors are looking for a way out, Trump is offering nothing but a way deeper in.
If there is one great achievement of Donald Trump’s term, it’s creating the weakest presidency in history. Sure, Trump talks the authoritarian talk, and William Barr does his best to make everyone forget the idea of impartial justice. But Trump’s unwillingness to take the least bit of responsibility in the face of the greatest crisis in decades, has turned him into an orange figurehead on his own ship of state. Rather than addressing the pandemic head on with nationwide lockdowns and social distancing mandates, Trump stepped aside and left it all to the states. Rather than conducting the kind of coordinated national testing and tracing program that has been conducted in every other nation, Trump stepped aside and left it all to the states. And now all the Trump-wanna-be governors are demonstrating that they too can be Weak Like Trump.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey hasn’t passed a mask mandate, but he has decided that city and county officials can pass one. And maybe that attitude has trickled down still more as Trump’s Tuesday night rally was held in a city where the local government has passed a mask mandate that definitely affects rallies like Trump’s, but no one seemed to be enforcing it.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has also warned that Wednesday is likely to bring a “massive” new record with over 5,000 cases, As a result he is … telling local officials that they can impose new restrictions. That would be easier except for the fact that on April 27, Abbott signed an executive order barring cities and counties from passing mask mandates. He backed that up with another executive order on June 3 banning local governments from imposing penalties for violating social distancing. And though Abbott “urged” Texans to stay home, he did so in the same breath as he said that closing any part of the Texas economy would be “the last option.”
Just out: @PolicyLabCHOP projections for Harris County (#Houston) #TexasCovid19. My read: It's saying if there is no major intervention the only thing that stops this virus is herd immunity. pic.twitter.com/KONPNLT25q
— Prof Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) June 24, 2020
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking another approach learned from Trump—lying about the numbers. Dr. Rebekah Jones, who created the coronavirus dashboard for Florida before being fired from her job after she refused to remove critical data, pointed out on Tuesday that Florida has abruptly stopped reporting the number of ICU beds available. And Jones makes an astounding charge, “I have multiple sources at [Department of Health] who have just told me they have been instructed this week to change the numbers and begin slowly deleting deaths and cases so it looks like Florida is improving next week in the lead up to July 4 …” This move brought to you by the continuing effort to make the mayor from Jaws appear to be a relative saint. Even so, the staggering jump in cases in the Sunshine State is going to be difficult to square with any “over the hump” narrative.
Continued efforts to enforce social distancing, limits on gatherings, and restrictions on businesses have dropped the rate of new cases enormously in New York and surrounding states. But an open at all cost strategy is driving a spike of new cases everywhere else. That’s even true in California, where the growing cases between Los Angeles and San Diego are erasing gains made through prompt action in the early months of the outbreak.
Across the nation, more than half the states are seeing rising cases, and more states are also reporting record hospitalization and an approaching shortage of ICU beds. But many of the nation’s governors appear to have learned at the knee of Donald Trump—do nothing, and pass the buck.
For a perfect example, there’s Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. Asked about his responsibility in handling the disease in his state, the governor had an answer that would do Trump proud. “I don’t know that any one person is responsible for that no more than anybody else standing out here in this hallway,” said Parson. Because it’s not like a governor can do anything, after all. No. He’s powerless. “Do I feel guilty because we have car accidents, and people die every day? No, I don’t feel guilty about that. Each person that gets in those situations, things happen like that in life, they do.” Weak, so weak. And powerless.