A glaring example? A recent Tweet from Trump’s #1 (these days) Coronavirus advisor asserting: “Masks work? NO”
That is, until Twitter removed it.
Which brings us back to the early days of the pandemic when we argued masks had to be at least somewhat effective for the simple fact that they’re masks. And that early arguments against masks had more to do with trying to avoid shortages in places like hospitals, and even unrest in the general population, as there clearly weren’t enough at that point to go around.
As a result, it took and still takes more work to convince people to wear masks. Especially with the President continuing to ridicule people who do. Even though when he caught COVID, it very well may have been at a large, maskless event.
And of course masks aren’t 100% effective. Nothing is. Condoms aren’t 100% effective preventing pregnancy.
At the same time, the thing we don’t get is wearing a mask isn’t hard at all. It’s as difficult as getting used to wearing a mask. If you’re asking Americans to be Patriots, which means making sacrifices for their country when necessary, it’s about the smallest sacrifice we can think of.
But the President doesn’t poll well on Coronavirus, and it’s way to late for him to change course, and it’s probably not in his nature anyway.
So what does he do? What he always does. He turns it all around so that the people who want to take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are the ones who are wrong. And his approach, which has been essentially betting everything on a vaccine, and until then everybody just needs to survive on their own, is the right way to go.
And by “taking action” we do not mean additional widespread lockdowns. Those actually seem increasingly unnecessary and unlikely. But that’s only because in the absence of leadership from the top, people have kind of gotten together, pieced things together and figured out how to make things work for now. With any kind of effective national guidance (beyond all caps Tweets), that could’ve happened much sooner.
Now the White House is actively working to block money for testing. Because as the President says, if you do more tests you find more cases. But doing more tests also means you can identify asymptomatic carriers, who might then infect others who might get very ill or die. If you test them, you then get those people to sit out for a few days until there’s no chance they’re still contagious. That’s what organizations that have virtually unlimited access to tests are doing right now. Like professional sports leagues. And by-and-large it’s worked.
The President’s earliest COVID-19 “strategy” seemed to lie simply in his ability to prove he was doing better than other industrialized countries. Which he had to drop for a while when numbers in the U.S. became astronomical. But now he’s back at it. Pointing out at rallies that COVID-19 cases in Europe are spiking again, to the cheers of at least some of those in attendance. And BTW, cases and hospitalizations—which can’t be explained away by increased testing—are spiking in the U.S. too. And according to the CDC, 300,000 more people have died in the U.S. this year than in a normal year. There is a little good news: according to a report by NPR, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 who end up dying has gone down a lot over time. At the beginning of the pandemic it was about 1 in 4 people, now it’s less than 1 in 10.
We haven’t been watching the President’s rallies too much recently, even though we used to watch pretty much every single one because we felt it was part of our job. But they’re almost completely all the same now, and there’s very little of substance to take away. Even new or substantial lies.
Same stuff: vaccines are delayed because scientists are doing a “political hit job” on him. That “hit job” consisting of insisting the vaccine has a 2-month track record of being safe (just 2 months!) before it’s widely administered to the public, and also that there’s actual real world proof that it’s effective (which in that case means at least a few people in clinical studies who got a placebo instead of the actual vaccine fell ill, while those who got the vaccine didn’t). That’s it. That’s the “political hit job”.
And when the President talks breezily about distributing and administering the vaccine as being a cinch: “we’ll have the Army do it; it’s called logistics”, that’s also his way of saying he doesn’t really have a plan for that. Merely a wish.
But one thing really did strike us at a rally this past weekend in Wisconsin. And he repeated similar stuff elsewhere. When the President enthusiastically asserted that essentially it’s OK if you get sick like he did because “the therapeutics are unbelievable.”
Yes they are. Because it’s “unbelievable” to think you might right now be able to get access to anything close to what the President got. Especially the experimental antibody treatment from Regeneron to which Trump almost fully credits his own speedy recovery. And promises everybody they’ll be able to get, and be able to get for free, so not to worry about getting sick. At the rally:
“We’re going to make what I had available to everybody. Free. Free! It’s incredible. The antibody. I think the antibody is the best thing.”
But unless you’re the President, that treatment remains very very difficult to access, and will for a while.
Part of that is on the White House: and the President’s singular focus on racing to get a vaccine above all else. Some money went to therapeutics, yes, but not nearly as much.
To the point at which if every American newly diagnosed today with COVID-19 walks into a hospital and says “I want what the President got just like the President promised”, there wouldn’t be enough of that Regeneron treatment to go around to last one single day.
With that kind of scarcity doctors aren’t just going to hand it out willy-nilly, and it isn’t super-easy to administer anyway. So instead they will likely reserve it for patients who are already in the hospital and getting sicker. Even though it might benefit people most if given early on. But then again, if they do that they’d invariably be wasting a lot of it on patients who might not end up really needing it to recover. In light of the extremely tight supply they wouldn’t want to do that either.
Regeneron says it is ramping up production. Still, that means by the end of the year it might be able to produce enough treatments to cover one week’s worth of newly infected Americans. So for it to be truly, widely accessible you’re probably taking about sometime early next year. By which time presumably, hopefully, there will be some kind of vaccine.
Which means it’s inescapable that for now, the President’s still pitching a whole lot of nothing. But for visions of a rosier future that for some reason render it unnecessary to even think about doing anything else in the meantime.
So please wear your mask. Common sense. It’s a mask.