Monday, March 23, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He doubled down on his opposition to a "cure" for the coronavirus pandemic.

Last night, Trump opined on Twitter that where the COVID-19 pandemic was concerned, "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF."

In today's briefing, the tenth in a row for a president who rarely stays in Washington for more than four consecutive days, Trump was visibly eager to declare the end of "social distancing" at the end of his suggested 15-day period of limited interactions. Not only has the business impact of the world's anti-pandemic measures been disastrous for the stock market, Trump's favorite barometer of his own success, but economists think that a brutal recession is all but inevitable.

Trump has not actually taken any leadership on the question of closing schools, restricting gatherings, or forcing non-essential businesses to shut down. That difficult and unpopular task he has left to state officials. The 15-day "slow down" period, announced after states and institutions had already started making shutdown plans of their own, has no legal effect whatsoever.

Doctors and public health experts, meanwhile, are virtually unanimous that a much stricter form of self-quarantine—essentially, the same nationwide lockdowns that eventually brought the pandemic under control in places like Japan, China, and Singapore—is necessary. The Surgeon General of the United States said as much in an interview today, begging Americans not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

Italy imposed such a lockdown 13 days ago, and is finally seeing its horrifying daily infection and death numbers begin to drop. Britain imposed one today.

Dr. Antony Fauci, who has urgently warned that the health care system will be totally overwhelmed without a heroic effort to slow the spread of the disease, was conspicuously absent from today's briefing. Asked what Fauci thought about Trump's plan, Trump responded, "He doesn't not agree." 

As the Washington Post noted today, there's another motive for Trump to encourage local governments to lift restrictions: his most profitable businesses in the hospitality industry have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Why does this matter?

  • The health and safety of Americans is more important than the Trump Organization's quarterly profits.