The consensus among health experts is that while local leaders and citizens sometimes messed up, and that luck matters along with other random factors we still don’t fully understand, huge responsibility lies with that “one leader.”
Some 40,000 confirmed infections are being reported each day in the United States, and another American still dies of the virus every 90 seconds. The University of Washington model projects that about 310,000 people will have died by Dec. 1 — a figure greater than the number of American combat deaths during World War II.
So portraying this toll as a tribute to Trump’s leadership takes real chutzpah.
Trump initially dismissed the coronavirus as like the flu, scoffed that it was “totally under control” and insisted it would disappear “like a miracle.” He imposed some travel restrictions on China (with enormous exceptions), which may have helped modestly, but he fumbled testing, didn’t ensure adequate protective equipment, and offered confused messaging.
The president resisted masks and embraced miracle cures — some dangerous ones, like injecting household disinfectants. He encouraged followers to “liberate” states with lockdowns and his administration pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise testing guidelines to exclude those without symptoms. He has suggested that his aim is to “slow the testing down,” so that fewer people will test positive; that’s like trying to reduce cancer fatalities by ending cancer screening.
Trump still doesn’t have a national Covid-19 strategy any more than he has a 2020 campaign platform.
The United States does not, as many Trump critics believe, have the highest death toll from the coronavirus on a per-capita basis; deaths per million have been higher in Belgium, Peru, Spain, Britain, Italy, Sweden, Chile and Brazil.
Yet while other countries made terrible mistakes — especially initially — they learned from them. China at first put more effort into suppressing warnings of the virus than into suppressing the virus itself. Italy delayed a lockdown. Britain at the beginning didn’t take the risks seriously.