Trump does pandemic his way

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:

Worldometer figures for 18 April 2020

And this is what the worldwide distribution of cases looked like:


Worldometer figures for 18 April 2020

These were the metrics Trump was planning to use in deciding to lift the lockdown:

Source: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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”:

Source: CBS This Morning

And all the while Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, was calling forlornly into the void:

Source: CGTN

3 thoughts on “Trump does pandemic his way

  1. Thanks for this very interesting post, Lara.

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from WHO says that global solidarity is a pre-requisite for dealing with the pandemic. My observation is that, even if NEAR global cooperation were to be achieved, the existence of even just one rogue state would render the near-solidarity not worthless, but definitely very leaky. And if that one rogue state were to be the size of the USA, the leak-holes would be vast. And it seems that if there IS to be a rogue state, it is likely to be the USA – for reasons your post makes very clear.

    This is not to say, however, that there won’t be other rogue states. Perhaps we could do with your commentary on Russia – and Putin’s response to the pandemic. From what I understand, Putin has been very silent!

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  2. Hi Lara! Thanks for this post! It’s interesting to hear your perspective on this. I was just talking to my dad about this yesterday. That is quite a paragraph, but this is also what I’ve come to expect from Trump, so it’s no surprise anymore that he’d say this or call the media disgraceful. My dad said there are protests going on even in Indianapolis (which tends to stay pretty neutral) over the lockdown regulations, some people who find the regulations to be too strict. But the state officials have been strong in their leadership (Cuomo in New York, Whitmer in Michigan. Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, the list goes on) and I think, at the moment, it’s that kind of leadership that people can turn to, and even if Trump threatens to jump in, I think he’s constitutionally obliged not to.

    To me it is much more shocking that people are out there protesting, putting themselves and others at risk, and therefore making this harder on health care workers if there is a spike in coronavirus numbers. It would be like if I went to join a protest against confusing jogging rules! I mean, yes, I want to jog, but let’s look at the bigger picture! My dad asked what things are like here, and Antonello said: Italy may have political divisions, but when it comes down to it, at this moment we are united. We’ve put those differences behind us and, even if begrudgingly at times, have willingly followed the rules. It’s not a political issue. It may have come at the “wrong time” in America (during an election year), but they need to stop looking at it as a red and blue issue. It’s about everyone. And they need to get their act together, stop bickering, and put up a united front.

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