Thursday, March 26, 2020

Trump embraces calamity

Dana Milbank writing at the Washington Post has some observations on how Trump barrels toward calamity.

President Trump has issued his order: Damn the mortality — full speed ahead.

With all the foresight of Napoleon invading Russia and all the caution of George Pickett charging the Union lines, Trump barreled ahead Tuesday with his plan to send Americans back to their workplaces — and, consequently, their airplanes, subways and restaurants — within 19 days, even as the rapidly spreading pandemic builds toward a peak.

“We’re opening up this incredible country,” he declared midday in the Rose Garden to Fox News interviewers, hours after the World Health Organization declared a “very large acceleration” of coronavirus infections in the United States, raising the prospect of this country becoming the pandemic’s new epicenter.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump declared. He went on to say he “wasn’t happy about” his public health experts’ recommendations, but he reluctantly accepted two weeks of restrictions because “we would have been unbelievably criticized for not doing it.”

If Trump succeeds in getting Americans to mix again in public at the height of the pandemic (many governors are unlikely to be so foolhardy with their constituents’ health), he will be risking the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions. Just a week into his tepid embrace of social distancing, he’s ready to abandon the fight against the virus and instead force Americans to accept a new strategy for dealing with a pandemic: survival of the fittest.

For what?

It won’t work: The economy won’t bounce back if people don’t feel safe. “There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus,” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican said on Twitter.

Dr. Anthony Fauci pushes back saying that The coronavirus pandemic ‘is not, as it were, under control’. Here are a couple of his responses to a WaPo interview. (Tnx to Roving Reporter Sherry.)

How are you balancing trying to explain this pandemic to the public, so they really understand what’s going on, without creating hysteria?

The fact that you’re asking that question — I think you realize that it’s a delicate balancing act. And it’s hard to do because you have to be truthful. You don’t want to withhold important information. At the same time, it’s frightening for people, understandably so. So here’s what you do: You make sure that you always tell the absolute truth and don’t hold back data. For example, the one thing that I have been saying that never came across particularly clearly in the way some people — and I’m not mentioning names — have expressed this: We are in the escalating phase of a very serious pandemic. That is a fact. We have got to realize that and to prepare and respond. It is not, as it were, under control. Because it’s still going up. Are we trying to control it? Yes. Are we having an impact? We are doing some rather dramatic things. California shutting down. New York doing the same thing. And for the country in general, the physical separation. So even though the inflection is going up, there’s no doubt that what we are doing is having an impact.

When you look at what happened in China and in Italy, you can’t run away from the potential of what this virus can do. That’s the reason why, when people ask me how long is this going to go on, we don’t know. If you look at the pattern, things are not going to turn around in two weeks. I mean, it’s just not going to happen. We’re in a several-week, I guess, fight, if you want to call it that. At best.

when you see images of people out jogging or hanging out, what does that make you feel?

I’m actually pleading with the younger generation that, although you feel you are invulnerable — which is not true; nobody’s invulnerable — the fight is not only trying to protect yourself. You have a societal, in some respects, moral responsibility to protect yourself so that you don’t then inadvertently and unintentionally infect those who are more vulnerable. So people in bars and in restaurants and on the streets hugging each other, in crowds, it just completely frustrates me to see that.

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