Trump’s COVID-19 Failures Cost Lives

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It is what it is

As of this writing, 173,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 on Trump’s watch. His fatal failures early on from his insistence that the virus would disappear, to his inability to get states the resources it needed such as PPE and test kits, and his utter lack of leadership undoubtedly helped the virus spread and kill thousands of people. His utter lack of leadership on the pandemic, leaving the states to make all the decisions so that he could conveniently blame the governors he does not like is shameless and spineless. From the outset, Trump has used his bully pulpit to deny the seriousness of the virus, to suggest it would just disappear, despite the science. He has acted as if he knew more about science that the medical professionals, floating ridiculous cures like light and disinfectant therapy and unproven drugs that do more harm than good. He’s refused to wear a mask and had until recently held irresponsible campaign rallies where many of his supporters were not wearing masks or socially distancing. What’s more, he’s repeatedly pressured states to return to normal, to open back up and demanded that all children return to school threatening to hold back federal funds to school districts that delay opening due to the pandemic. He wrongly claims that young people don’t get sick from the virus – they do, and doesn’t seem to understand or care that they can become infected with the virus, be asymptomatic and spread it to others. All he cares about is  being reelected and getting the invitation to the dictator club. Putin, being head of  initiation activities, keeps asking for “one more thing.”

And while Trump has refused to accept the science of the pandemic and ignored the advice of the experts, he’s been trying desperately to make Americans think that he’s been doing a great job, that compared to other countries, the numbers in the U.S. are good. He floated this theory in an interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios declaring that the death rate in the U.S. is low and that we do far more testing than any other country. The testing claim is true, we do a lot of testing but not nearly enough. However, the death rate statistic Trump cited, as Swan pointed out, was the percentage of deaths per positive cases, which is not a meaningful comparative metric. The statistic that shows fatalities rates per 100,000 people is one that is not so easily manipulated and one in which the U.S. is a world leader. Trump can’t spin this number unless he is behind a scheme to underreport COVID-19 deaths. As reported, death rate per 100,000 people in the U.S. is 52.11. If you want to track this number yourself, the formula is: number of deaths/total population*100,000. Now, 52 sounds really low, right? Comparatively, though, that number is high. In fact, there are only 9 countries in the world that have higher death rates. Our neighbors to the north and south of us, Canada (24.49) and Mexico (45.19) have faired better with lower death rates.

You may think that you live in a safe state – safe meaning that not so many residents have died or have come down with the virus – Wyoming is an example. But even the so-called safe states are not immune to the virus and its deadly impact. It takes one super spreader in a crowd to spark an outbreak, so safe states, don’t let your guard down. By the way, what makes a safe state? Why is it that there aren’t many cases in Wyoming, Maine or Vermont? The key, according to the data I have tracked, is population density. Wyoming has one of the lowest population densities of any state. And it only has about 3,300 positive cases and 33 deaths to date. It has a 5.82 death rate per 100,000. (But even safe low density states are not immune to upticks, even without a super spreading event as I will show later.) By contrast, the more densely populated state of New Jersey has a death rate of 178.93 per 100,000 residents.

One note of caution – death rates are trailing statistics and don’t necessarily indicate the severity of the current outbreak. New York, for example, has a high death rate but has managed to flatten its curve and as a result seen fewer cases in the last few months. Whereas, mid- level density southern states like Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia have seen dramatic rises in cases in the past 4 weeks, and now have higher rates of cases per capita than New York, New Jersey, and other high-density states. This suggests that while low-density is a metric to explain why the virus initially didn’t make much of a splash, it is starting to create waves in the south and even in sparsely populated states like Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho, and Vermont that have social distancing baked into their geographies.

A final point here. Not long ago, a conservative meme making the rounds attempted to prove that influenza was far more deadly than COVID-19. It took the year 2018, a year when flu deaths spiked in the U.S. at about 60,000 deaths, and it reported the deaths in each U.S. state alongside the current deaths (as of April 2020) attributed to COVID-19. As one may recall, in the early stages of COVID-19, when the meme was published, COVID deaths were fairly low and not projected to even reach the 60,000 mark. Those numbers were revised over time and now are estimated to reach up to 300,000 deaths by November of 2020. 34 states have more COVID-19 deaths than flu fatalities reported for 2018 and some by orders of magnitude – Georgia, Colorado, Florida, and Illinois by 200%; Arizona by more than 300%; Louisiana and Connecticut by more than 400%, and Massachusetts and New York by more than 500%. Therefore, the flu, while deadly, is far less deadly than COVID-19 statistically speaking and as long as there is no vaccine and no leadership from the Trump administration, COVID-19 deaths will continue to rise.

In fairness, Trump has lead – but lead astray. His response has been to ignore the numbers, or call them into question; to encourage the governors to reopen the states which has been a disaster – just look at Florida, Texas, and Georgia, and as mentioned in the opening, he has threatened school districts if they don’t go back to in-person instruction. This plan has been an effort to downplay the virus, to gaslight the people into believing that their concerns over the virus are not grounded in reality, and that the virus is nothing more than a plan by the democrats to take Trump down.

Trump is doing everything in his power to undermine confidence in the election process. He says it’ll be rigged, that mail in ballots can’t be trusted, that voter fraud is certain. This is from his 2016 playbook. And if he wins, perhaps with the aid of Russia hacking and a powerful disinformation campaign, he’ll say the election wasn’t rigged after all.

But whatever happens, Trump is the reason COVID-19 is still raging out of control and killing thousands of people in the US every day.  And as the death toll rises, remember that it didn’t have to be like this.

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It ain’t what it ain’t

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