As the United States reaches a new stage in the COVID-19 crisis as hospitalizations spike in some parts of the country, the President of those United States began the week of October 26 with a stirring message: "The Fake News Media is riding COVID, COVID, COVID, all the way to the Election. Losers!"
It was the latest iteration of his current message on the pandemic: that anyone voicing concerns about what's happening in much of the Great Plains and Midwest is perpetrating a Hoax against him, trying to harm his political prospects in the homestretch of the campaign. Elsewhere, the president suggested all talk of Covid will disappear on November 4, the day after the election.
He knows the play. You might have noticed that we never heard a word about The Caravan (2018) as soon as the midterm elections were over. Suddenly, this "invasion" at the southern border was not a pressing issue for the president and his media allies, though not before it had become a catalyst for right-wing violence. We also never heard about The Email Protocol (2016) after it had done its job damaging Hillary Clinton's campaign—in fact, numerous Trump officials used private email for their official duties when they took office. This is a guy who knows the value of a good scam narrative down the homestretch, which is why he's so mad that his Hunter Biden shtick hasn't really stuck. He can only see the pandemic as it pertains to his own political prospects, and assumes his enemies are doing to him what he would do to them.
As if to drive home that the current administration will not concern itself with what is happening in reality, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, just about gave up the game on Sunday.
MEADOWS: We're not going to control the pandemic
TAPPER: Why not?
M: Because it's a contagious virus
T: Why not make efforts to contain it?
M: What we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors to make sure people don't die pic.twitter.com/0DYgk4rB3T
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 25, 2020
This is the approach the White House has to take, because the president opposes more testing on the basis that he thinks it creates bad headlines. He says this constantly, including in the festival of self-pity that was his 60 Minutes interview on Sunday: testing creates cases, he says, and the media uses that against him, so he and his people have refused to implement a national testing strategy, and this summer opposed more money for testing in the COVID relief bill that still hasn't come to pass.
The way to contain—and, ultimately, suppress—the virus is through a robust testing program that allows you to catch cases early, get people isolated before they create clusters, and prevent and quash clusters of infection once they happen. (Ideally, as experts told me in May, this involves regularly screening people without symptoms, known as surveillance testing.) Some states, like Maine and New York—the latter of which has mostly gotten it together after a disastrous early performance from local Democratic leaders—have shown this is possible. But the president thinks more testing is a negative for him, so the fact that it might be better for the country is not relevant.
Now we're in a situation where the ruling regime will essentially allow the virus to spread freely and fall back on therapeutics to keep the number of deaths down. Treatment really has improved, as the president has said, and so has the death rate, but if hospitals are overwhelmed—as they are in some areas—they won't be able to treat everyone, or with the same level of attention. Meadows made clear that this is the strategy later in the interview, as he cast doubt on the efficacy of masks and offered the following on how the administration sees things: "We need to find the vaccines and the therapeutics to give Americans the relief that this is not a death sentence." In other words, they either legitimately believe there's no way to control the spread, or they'd rather not try.
Having sensed that Meadows screwed the pooch, Jared Kushner jumped on Fox News Monday to declare the administration is going to "defeat the virus."
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 26, 2020
(This was somehow better than the other Kushner Moment this Monday morning, in which a trust-fund kid whose daddy bought his way into Harvard—and then got him a job in the family business until, in turn, his daddy-in-law gave him a job in politics—suggested some Black Americans don't "want to be successful.")
But the story here is still the same: there's mostly talk about vaccines and treatments, not about mitigation measures. Kushner will be well aware of the administration's aversion to a robust testing regime, as it was reportedly his team that dismissed the necessity of a national program early on in the belief the virus would only ravage blue states and cities. This merely reflected the general Trump regime attitude that because these areas did not support the president in the 2016 election, he basically has no duty to serve these American citizens at all. This also all stems from the president's aversion, from the very beginning, to getting an accurate picture of how many Americans actually have coronavirus, which began with his refusal to let people off a cruise ship, because, "I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault."
Oh, by the way: you can find Joe Biden's plan for combatting the pandemic on his website. What's that up top? "A decisive public health response that ensures the wide availability of free testing." And later? "...deploying rapid testing capacity, ensuring robust nationwide disease surveillance..." In other words, we can give up and pray, or we can grow up and try. Or, in Pennsylvania's case, it's a choice between the guy with a plan and the guy who is already promising to unleash vindictive retribution on the state's governor—and thus, the residents of the state—if he's re-elected.
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