This paragraph, from the Economist’s The world this week, is possibly the densest collection of astonishing information I have ever seen. Every single sentence in it is a bombshell. I must have read it twenty times, and every time is like the first:
Donald Trump said that data suggested America was past the peak of the covid-19 outbreak, as he mooted guidelines to reopen the economy. The president created a council to look at the options, some of whose members were surprised to be included. Earlier he started a row with state governors who are trying to co-ordinate the lifting of some restrictions. He claimed they needed his permission; the constitution says they don’t. When a journalist asked Mr Trump what he had done all February to prepare for covid, he called her “disgraceful”. Mr Trump said he would suspend American funding to the World Health Organisation, accusing it of pushing “China’s misinformation” on the coronavirus.
For context, this is what the US’s covid-19 numbers looked like two days after Trump decided the country had peaked:
And this is what the worldwide distribution of cases looked like:
These were the metrics Trump was planning to use in deciding to lift the lockdown:
Below you can see Trump replying to CBS journalist Paula Reid’s observation that he bought himself time but perhaps didn’t make good use of it to prepare for the pandemic by telling her “you’re so disgraceful” (at 1:50) and “you’re a fake” (at 2:46). At 3:11 he insists that he can lift the lockdown if he feels like it because “when somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total”:
And all the while Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, was calling forlornly into the void: