I take no joy whatsoever in writing this particularly grim post, but Donald Trump’s relentless string of lies about the coronavirus going away, being just like the flu, being a media hoax, and being a problem that governors and governors alone should handle are all about to hit a wall as the death toll mounts across the country.
Americans of all stripes will have the opportunity to see with their own eyes the deadly results of a president who was too incoherent, too incompetent, and too inhumane to worry about leading an unprepared nation into an ambush blindfolded. And no region will be spared, not even those that rabidly support Trump.
In fact, many of the rural and southern regions of the country that make up some of Trump’s strongholds stand to get pummeled, as Daily Kos community member Dartagnan noted over the weekend. In those regions, Trump and a host of GOP governors will bear specific responsibility for sowing confusion over the seriousness of the epidemic and the dire need for social distancing to slow its spread. “There is no city anywhere in the world that can withstand the outbreak that would occur if there isn’t rigorous social distancing,” Tom Frieden, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, told Politico.
Emerging hot spots, according to modeling done by Columbia University epidemiologists, include St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana, rural Tennessee just north of Nashville, and parts of southwest Georgia near Albany. Most of these rural areas are already desperately low on the resources and medical personnel necessary to handle an influx of COVID-19 cases.
St. John the Baptist, for instance, doesn’t even have a hospital located within the parish. Politico writes, “As of Friday, St. John the Baptist had nearly 300 confirmed cases and 22 deaths. The state health department says the region is already at 56 percent of its hospital bed capacity and 68 percent of its ICU bed capacity, with the virus’ peak not expected for at least another week and cases doubling every 2.5 days.”
But rural areas in Arkansas and South Carolina are uniquely at risk precisely because their governors still haven’t issued a statewide stay-at-home order. In addition, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia only did so recently and, in some cases, with some pretty glaring carve-outs for activities like going to beaches and attending religious services.
“The best indicator of who is at risk is how tamped down are you in terms of social distancing,” said Nirav Shah, a senior scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center.
Over the weekend, Trump spent a lot of time pointing fingers at everyone but himself for the carnage that is coming—the media, Democratic governors, regions that are making “inflated requests” for equipment (i.e. New York, though Trump never named the state).
“It is critical that certain media outlets stop spreading false rumors and creating fear and panic with the public,” Trump said, failing to single out any specific stories that were supposedly over the top.
His finger pointing will ramp up as the death count rises. But never forget that Trump and Senate Republicans pissed away the entire month of February and about half of March without doing virtually anything (other than dumping some stocks) to prepare the nation for what lay ahead.