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After several weeks of denying that the coronavirus was a problem or a threat, Trump admitted yesterday that the virus would probably kill between 100,000-240,000 people. That’s supposedly the “best case” scenario. If government fails to act effectively to test people and provide supplies for healthcare professionals, the death toll could be as high as 2 million people.

Here is timeline of Trump’s remarks about the coronavirus, compiled by teacher Glen Brown. Brown describes Trump’s behavior as “dangerous ignorance.” Trump has openly displayed his contempt for facts, science, expertise. His “gut” is the source of his wisdom, in addition to his genetic relationship to an uncle who taught at MIT and whose brains Trump absorbed by osmosis. Brown is a teacher, a poet, and a musician. Compare his timeline to the one created by the Washington Post.I think Brown’s context offers a fuller portrait of Trump’s dangerous ignorance.

Here is a timeline of Trump’s remarks about the coronavirus, compiled by the Washington Post (I don’t see the reference to the day when he said everyone should plan to go to church on Easter Sunday and pack the pews):

From ‘It’s going to disappear’ to ‘WE WILL WIN THIS WAR’

How the president’s response to the coronavirus has changed since January

As the coronavirus began to spread across the United States, President Trump repeatedly insisted that it was nothing to worry about. Two months later, the United States became the first country in the world with more than 100,000 cases, the economy has ground to a near standstill, and the virus has killed more than 1,000 people in New York state alone.

As cases increased and stocks tumbled, the president’s attitude toward the threat of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has evolved from casual dismissal to reluctant acknowledgment to bellicose mobilization. Below, we trace the winding path of the president’s response to the virus, in his own words.

“It’s going to disappear.”

News conference, Feb. 28

Photo illustration of Trump with speech bubble saying, ‘It’s going to disappear.’
January through early March

Dismissing the threat

In the early days of the virus’s spread in the United States, Trump repeatedly emphasized that everything was “under control” and that the virus would just “disappear” in warmer months. Meanwhile, the coronavirus was steadily spreading in Singapore, where average temperatures are similar to summer in the United States.

“I think the 3.4 percent [fatality rate] is really a false number.”

Fox News interview, March 4

Photo illustration of Trump with speech bubble saying, ‘I think the 3.4 percent [fatality rate] is really a false number.’
Recognizing the spread, downplaying the risk

The World Health Organization warned early on that the global risk was high. Multiple states soon started reporting cases of community transmission, suggesting that containment was becoming more and more unlikely. Schools in Seattle began to close as one of the earliest serious outbreaks started to erupt in Washington state.

As February turned to March, the first deaths were announced and cases continued to climb. Trump began to acknowledge the virus’s spread in the United States but dismissed the potential danger to the public at large.

News conference, March 16

“We have an invisible enemy.”

Photo illustration of Trump with speech bubble saying, ‘We have an invisible enemy.’
Acknowledging the severity of the pandemic

The same week the WHO declared covid-19 a pandemic, the situation in the United States became more fraught. Stock markets continued to rapidly decline, and the U.S. death count began to double every few days. Businesses from the National Basketball Association to Disney canceled or postponed events. Cities worldwide asked their residents to quarantine at home and practice social distancing.

Amid this backdrop, Trump shifted his tone and tried to paint himself as having taken the virus seriously from the start. By March 14, he had declared a national emergency and backtracked on many of his earlier remarks.

Photo illustration of Trump with speech bubble saying, ‘Our country wasn’t built to be shut down.’
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down.”

News conference, March 23

Pivoting to focus on the economy

Even with new guidelines from the White House and more federal efforts to combat the pandemic, both confirmed cases and deaths continued to rise exponentially.

However, after stock markets closed at their lowest point since Trump’s second week in office, he once again changed the focus of his efforts. As health experts continued to urge the public to limit face-to-face interactions, the president lamented how these restrictions prevented economic growth.

By late March, a record 3.3 million Americans would file for unemployment. The unemployment rate would rise to 5.5 percent, a level not seen since 2015.

“We’re going to have a great victory.”

News conference, March 30

Photo illustration of Trump with speech bubble saying, ‘We’re going to have a great victory.’
End of March, heading into April

Adopting the rhetoric of war

Trump’s statements indicating that he hoped to scale back coronavirus restrictions to revive the economy alarmed public health experts and many elected leaders. Experts warned that these restrictions would need to stay in place much longer to avoid more deaths. Medical workers also expressed alarm at the prospect of overwhelmed emergency rooms.

As cases continued to increase, Trump expressed doubt about New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plea for 30,000 more ventilators to care for the influx of patients expected to flood hospitals. Yet by Sunday, Trump seemed to acknowledge the improbability of quickly reopening the economy, declaring that the Easter deadline was “just an aspiration” and announcing that he would extend federal guidance on social distancing through April.

As March came to a close, Trump began to embrace the image of himself as the leader of a country at war. He first referred to himself as a “wartime president” on March 19. In recent days, Trump has increasingly adopted wartime rhetoric to describe his attitude toward the pandemic.

Over the weekend, Anthony S. Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned that between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans could die and that millions would be infected. The president said on Sunday that the country would be doing well if it “can hold” the number of deaths “down to 100,000.”

Deborah Birx, another member of the task force, offered her own grim assessment: “No state, no metro area, will be spared.”

Enjoy this.

It reminded me of my family.


Remember “Gone with the Wind?”

You will never forget her parody.

She and her wonderful ensemble did skits like this every week.

Have fun.

Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda join James Corden to give reprises of 22 musicals in 12 minutes.

Now that Trump cannot hold mass pep rallies for his base, he is holding daily press briefings to share his opinions about the coronavirus. He frequently contradicts the government experts because he knows more than they do.

Robert Shepard, polymath extraordinaire, has written his own version of a Trump briefing:

Moronavirus trumpinski orangii Press Briefing and Campaign Rally, Sunday, March 23, 2020

TRUMP (snorts some Adderall and steps to the podium): OK, I wanted to start by saying some people are blaming this thing on Asian Americans. Where would they get that idea? Terrible, just terrible, OK? Don’t do that. Good people, Asians. The Asians love me. They love Donald Trump. We’re going to get through this Chinavirus. We’ll get through this.

This is going to be bad. Really bad. People are going to die. Am I right? Terrible. All those people. That’s why we need to lift the restrictions immediately and go back to work like normal. Can’t let the cure be worse than the disease. We need the economy working. People going to eat in Trump restaurants. Going to Karaoke at Trump private clubs. Staying in Trump hotels. Playing at golf Trump courses. People call me, they say, when you going to open those up again? Everybody agrees. You got people can’t even make reservations. Can’t even go on safari now to kill the last remaining animal of some species. Disgraceful. That’s why–the doctors agree with me–we should open everything up again now. Because this thing is going to spread. Spread like crazy. We open up, it goes away? OK? Chinavirus. I’ll make a decision about this early this coming week, after my new Adderall comes in.

Doctors will agree with me. Because I’m smart. A genius, really. Somebody said the death rate. The death rate from this thing. Is like, what was that? Like point zero zero zero zero zero zero one percent. Right Dr. Birx?

DR. BIRX: Well, it was about 3 percent in China, but we really don’t know.

TRUMP: See? Like I said. Point zero zero zero zero zero zero one percent. Obama ever get numbers like that? So, we lift these restrictions and get back to work. Because that’s what Americans do. They like to work under unsafe conditions for very low pay. And maybe die. So some people can get richer. I know, I’m a construction guy. Chinavirus. This is going to be bad. That’s why I’m making a decision. A decision next week. Open back up. Pick up a Sharpie, draw a circle around the country on a map. No Chinavirus! Two, three days, it’s gone. Magic! It’s like magic, am I right? I know. You’ll thank me.

So, we’re working hard, right now on a package. A stimulus package. No one ever liked Obama’s package. I have the best package. Get the economy humming again. Quickly. Very quickly. Best economy ever. You won’t believe it how quick. Let me tell you the great things. We’re doing great things. The best things, OK?

Steve Munchkin gets 500 billion to give away. It’s like free money, right? To Trump businesses, to members of the great Mar-a-lago resort. You know, to all those who desperately need it. Would you like to say a few words about that, Steve?

STEVE MUNCHKIN (in Lederhosen):

I represent the Oligarch Guild,
The Oligarch Guild, the Oligarch Guild,
And in the name of the Oligarch Guild,
I wish to welcome you to Grifterland.
All citizens are marks in Grifterland.

And the airlines and the cruise industry. They need billions and billions too. And the banks. Other corporations. Because they are sitting on only about a trillion dollars offshore right now. Hard. It’s hit them hard. So we’re going to send checks. Twelve dollars to every poor, hardworking, white, Christian American so they can pay their rent and utilities and feed their children and maybe buy a new car and go on a trip to the Trump International Hotel and Golf Club in Ireland. Because that’s the kind of people we are. We put the American people first. America first, OK? Not like the Fake News Media and the Democrats. Lots of people are going to die. So, we need to open up immediately. Makes sense, right? I have a knack of this kind of thing. I really do. My uncle was like this super genius at MIT. Open back up. Have some Trump steaks. Play a little golf. Maybe go back to the hotel. And speaking of hotel rooms, everything’s going to be golden.

I don’t know about you but my inbox is crowded with humorous videos of all kinds. Some are too raunchy to post. Some make fun of the toilet paper shortage and what it means. Some poke fun at our nation’s leaders.

There is nothing funny about a pandemic, but somehow humor pops up as people seek relief from social isolation.

This video was sent to me by my brother in Florida, who got it from…who knows. It’s all over Twitter and other social media.

Trump vs. God on Easter Sunday.

The creator of the video is credited, and apparently it has had millions of views.

Please note that Donald Trump called on Americans to crowd the pews of their churches on Easter Sunday, which he designated as the day when the economy would restart.

However, after his medical team told him that the coronavirus was not under control and that it might produce hundreds of thousands of deaths, he changed his mind and declared that the nation should not resume normal activities until at least the end of April.

We will learn on Easter Sunday whether his avid followers learned of his change of views.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced that public schools are unlikely to reopen this calendar year due to the coronavirus.

California public school campuses are unlikely to reopen for the remainder of the academic school year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Tuesday in a letter to school district officials.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Thurmond wrote. “This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.”

Earlier, Thurmond had resisted suggestions that there was no hope for returning to campus. His letter Tuesday represented a shift of direction.

His statement also echoed remarks from Gov. Gavin Newsom at a midday Tuesday news conference:

“We have more work to do: internet connection, rural issues, and still trying to address the anxiety of parents like me and my wife and millions of others about whether or not kids are going to go back to school this calendar year or not,” Newsom said. “I have been clear in my belief they will not, but let me announce formally what the superintendent of public education believes and what the superintendents believe and expect that announcement in the next day or two.”

Teresa Hanafin writes Fast Forward for the Boston Globe.

She wrote today:

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, March 31, the 91st day of the year. It’s César Chávez Day in 10 states, honoring his fight for social justice on his birthday…

The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests tiring out those little people who are underfoot every day now by taking them outside to set up, dig, and plant a garden. Order seeds that are big enough for little fingers or that grow fast for impatient tykes, like peas, pole beans, squash, radishes, corn, cucumbers — but make sure they like to eat whatever they plant. Throw in pumpkins or sunflowers or morning glories, too.

The almanac also suggests other things you can do with the kids: build bat and bird houses, make a sundial, assemble a weather station, and tap some maple trees so you can make syrup. Oh sure, and while you’re at it, why not dig a well, build a playground, and reshingle your roof.

We all should be grateful that Trump is finally realizing that the coronavirus crisis is serious, agreeing to extend his physical-distancing recommendation through April. Welcome to the real world!

Unfortunately, it took a full-court press by the task force’s two top docs, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, wheedling and cajoling, showing Trump charts and graphs (since he doesn’t read and likes to look at pictures instead), and convincing him that if he went through with his plan to pull back on physical distancing measures, encourage businesses to reopen, and tell workers to go back to work, then upwards of 2.2 million people could die, according to a study by the Imperial College in London.

That’s actually highly unlikely; most governors would have just ignored Trump and kept businesses closed and residents at home in their own states.

In fact, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia already have put mandatory stay-home orders in place, with more moving in that direction, which kind of makes whatever Trump says irrelevant.

But the risk was that some Republican governors who have been following Trump’s lead and downplaying the virus would actually comply if Trump had gone through with his go-back-to-work advice.

Look at Alabama, where just five days ago, Governor Kay Ivey said she would not issue a stay-at-home order because “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California.” Just wait, Scarlett. As the number of cases and deaths in her state began to rise rapidly, and scientists and doctors (and her own lieutenant governor) clamored for action, she finally ordered nonessential businesses to close down and asked — but did not require — residents to stay home.

Or Florida, where GOP Governor Ron DeSantis still refuses to issue a stay-at-home statewide order, despite the images of college students packed together partying on beaches and in bars in mid-March. He eventually closed restaurants and bars, and yesterday finally issued a stay-at-home order for south Florida until April 15. Meanwhile, Miami is becoming one of the nation’s hotspots, and Florida has gone from 4,000 cases to 5,000 cases to 6,000 cases in just a couple of days. Oh, and he’s blaming New Yorkers for the increase.

They ought to follow the example of their fellow Republican, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio. His fast, aggressive, and decisive actions have been a model for other governors.

But there was another big factor in Trump’s capitulation, something that matters to him more than anything: Polls. Political surveys by his former campaign pollsters show that most Americans want the country to close down and power through this crisis.

It was pretty jaw-dropping when Trump bragged about the high TV ratings for his coronavirus media briefings. Remember, they essentially are news conferences about devastating job losses, illness, and death, and he’s giddy because the ratings are good.

But then came this: His implication that New York hospitals were doing something nefarious with specialty masks for their staff (emphasis mine):

How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000? Ten to 20,000 masks to 300,000? Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000? And we have that in a lot of different places. So, somebody should probably look into that, because I just don’t see, from a practical standpoint, how that’s possible to go from that to that.

Here’s how: Previously, only hospital personnel involved with surgery or treating a handful of highly contagious diseases were required to wear the protective masks. Now, every single employee of the hospital is required to wear one, including the cleaning crews.

In addition, every time a doctor or nurse or physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner or health aide or anyone deals with a patient, whether they have a COVID-19 diagnosis or not — in other words, every single patient — they must assume that the patient is infected, throw away that mask, and put on a new one before moving to the next patient.

As one surgeon said, “I don’t understand why this is so difficult for him to grasp.” Sure you do. We all do. Somebody, quick — draw him some pictures.

One infuriating aspect of this crisis is the yawning chasm between the Trump administration’s insistence that millions and millions of pieces of equipment — testing kits, masks, ventilators — have been shipped to states, and the daily pleas from many governors and hospitals facing shortfalls and rationing, endangering health workers and patients alike.

But when Montana Governor Steve Bullock pleaded for more test kits in a conference call, telling Trump that his state was one day away from being unable to do any more testing, Trump played dumb. (Okay, maybe he wasn’t playing.) “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” he said. “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

Those quick-result tests approved by the FDA can’t arrive soon enough.

The other confounding aspect of this is the bidding war states are forced to engage in because there is no coordination from the feds. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it’s like auctions on eBay, with states trying to outbid each other for critical items, and even FEMA swooping in to join the bidding, all of which is driving prices through the roof. Why FEMA didn’t assume the role of national purchasing agent and distribute items according to need is baffling, and critics say it’s such a failure of logic, organization, and leadership.

Dr. Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped wipe smallpox off the face of the earth when he was at the World Health Organization, has been sharply critical of Trump’s early downplaying of the virus as a hoax and insistence that the US wasn’t being affected for weeks: “Speaking as a public health person, this is the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”

He’s still angry about the administration’s tepid response. “We should be flooding the zone” with testing and equipment, he said. “This should be a moonshot, a Manhattan Project.” The problem is that Trump thinks the Manhattan Project was when he built Trump Tower.

In this time of national crisis, the Trump administration announced that it was lowering federal fuel economy standards.

This move reverses many years of efforts to fight air pollution.

People with emphysema, asthma, and other lung conditions, already at risk for coronavirus, will suffer even more risk as the air is dirtied by emissions from cars and trucks.

This change to lower standards may satisfy the fossil fuel industry and some in the transportation industry, at least those who put profits above lives, but it is a deadly blow to public health.

It is a curious time to take steps to further endanger public health and poison the air we breathe.

Is there a bottom to the heartlessness of the Trump administration and its callous indifference to our lives?

Leonie Haimson invites you to listen to her interview with Wednesday from 10-11 AM EST:

Join us Wed. from 10-11AM on WBAI for “Talk out of School” when I’ll interview Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, about what schools should & should not be doing during the time of coronavirus , how not to overstretch and overstress the capabilities of teachers and families, & how the crisis threatens to lead to huge education cuts, further undermine student privacy & more. Please call in with your questions at 212-209-2877.

David Weigel of the Washington Post answers questions that readers have asked:

In the old world, the one we lived in before the coronavirus, this would be primary day in Puerto Rico. A few days earlier, Joe Biden would have probably won Georgia and announced an “insurmountable delegate lead” over Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump would be holding rally after rally, flying into swing states to prove the enthusiasm gap between him and the Democrats.

That world doesn’t exist anymore, so it’s a good time to answer some questions from readers and subscribers. Many of them still had questions about the primary, which is not over, although no delegate lead as large as Joe Biden’s has ever been overcome by a challenger. A few had questions about how elections will go forward during a pandemic, something that has not happened since 1918. Luckily, most of the questions people have about this election have answers.

Bob asks: “Does the administration have the legal right to postpone an election due to this pandemic?”

This was a very popular question and, luckily, pretty easy to answer. Primary elections are run by state governments and in some cases, state parties, and they can be moved rather easily. But the federal election, while administered by state governments, has its date set by federal law. It would take a bipartisan act of Congress to change the date — possible, but not likely. It would take an amendment to the Constitution to delay the inauguration of whoever wins the 2020 election — possible, and even less likely.

But the short answer is no: The Trump administration cannot postpone an election all by itself. The circumstances that would get people thinking about that might be a second coronavirus outbreak in October. But we have six months before early voting gets underway in key states, and there is time for states to come up with contingency voting plans. Could they fritter that time away and fail to fund it? Could some states put comprehensive vote-by-mail in place while other states don’t? Yes and yes.

Debbie asks: “What happens to delegates of candidates who won them and later dropped out? Warren has not supported either Biden nor Sanders. Does she still hold on to the delegates she won? Or can she choose where they go?”

It’s complicated, and it’s one reason that the delegate counts you see collected by media outlets can diverge so much. While 3,979 delegates are being allocated by voters in primaries and caucuses, most state parties select the actual delegates — the people who will represent the candidate at the party’s convention — after the voting is over. In Iowa, for example, five candidates got delegates, but only two of them remain in the race. When activists meet at their local conventions, they will elect the actual flesh-and-blood humans who will represent Biden and Sanders and delegates.

In most states, this will be a boon for Sanders. Every candidate who has quit the race has endorsed Biden, except for Elizabeth Warren. Had they remained active candidates they could have released those delegates to Biden at the convention. Instead, their departure changes the math for selecting delegates; in the nine states where candidates besides Biden and Sanders won delegates, the local conventions will base their selection on the two-way vote between Sanders and Biden instead.

Rob asks: “Is there any possibility that Andrew Cuomo could emerge as a draft candidate for the Democratic ticket?”

Outside Twitter, no, there is not any organized effort to give the nomination to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The primacy of New York in American media, and in the outbreaks so far, has clearly given Cuomo the best coverage of his career. Even the glow around his push for same-sex marriage in New York state was dimmer than this. Other Democratic governors have impressed voters with their pandemic response, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, but Cuomo is clearly the star.

Still, let’s be honest: The “draft somebody else” question is less about Cuomo in particular than about the worries surrounding potential Democratic nominees who would turn 80 in their first terms.

Were Biden or Sanders to leave the race now, the remaining candidate would secure almost all remaining delegates and have enough to win the nomination on the first ballot of a convention. If that candidate became unable to serve, delegates would be free to select someone else, and it would not matter whether that person had run in the primary. Were both candidates to continue, but the candidate with the most delegates became unable to serve, it would be up to those delegates to decide whether to nominate someone new, or whether to walk over and nominate the runner-up.

On their current trajectory, Democrats are not heading for a contested convention; that is, one of their remaining candidates should have enough delegates to win the nomination outright. And some of the “draft Cuomo” chatter has quieted as Biden has become more assertive, doing interviews from his studio.