In so doing, Trump, in his eagerness to see good economic numbers, chose to disregard warnings from health experts that returning to business as usual would lead to a new surge in infections. And while the Democratic governors he targeted mostly ignored his taunts, many Republican governors, especially in the Sunbelt, rushed to remove restrictions on restaurants, bars, even gyms.
The result was a vast national catastrophe.
As in the early days of the pandemic, Trump and those around him wasted crucial weeks denying what was happening and refusing to take action. On June 16 an op-ed article by Mike Pence declared that there wasn’t a coronavirus ‘‘second wave.” (Spoiler: there was.) Four days later Trump held an indoor rally in Tulsa, without social distancing and with very few people wearing masks, in an apparent attempt to convey the sense that things were fine.
Of course, things weren’t fine. Here’s one way to see how fine they weren’t: On the day Trump issued his LIBERATE demands, around 33,000 Americans had died from Covid-19. The total now is around 180,000. That is, the vast majority of Covid-19 deaths in the United States have occurred since Trump effectively tried to sound the all-clear.
To be fair, some of those additional deaths would surely have happened even if Trump had done what he should have done: urged states to impose and maintain strict limits on indoor gatherings, called for social distancing, encouraged Americans to wear masks instead of ridiculing the practice and so on. But many, perhaps most, of those deaths could have been avoided.
Furthermore, the cost of Trump’s fecklessness went beyond the unnecessary loss of life and the long-term health damage that, it seems increasingly likely, will afflict many of those who survived Covid-19. The promised economic rebound is also falling short. Reopening produced a brief surge of returning jobs, but most states have now either paused or reversed their reopening, and employment growth appears to have slowed drastically.