Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He changed his tone but not his actions.

After having spent months openly mocking Americans who were concerned about the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak, Trump has been trying—with some success—to get credit for his changed "tone" on the virus that is now expected to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in the most optimistic scenario.

But it's not at all clear that Trump actually understands what he's facing. Asked why he hasn't imposed a nationwide shelter-in-place order—something assumed by the model that has only 100,000-240,000 Americans dying—Trump hesitated, and then said this:

You have to give a little bit of flexibility ... a state in the Midwest, Alaska, that doesn't have a problem? It's awfully tough to say 'Close it down,' so we have to have a little bit of flexibility.

In reality, Alaska does have a stay-at-home order in place.

More importantly, there is no state that doesn't have a COVID-19 problem.

Some rural states still have essentially zero testing capacity even now, which means the real infection rate is almost impossible to know. But every community in every part of the United States is vulnerable to uncontrolled outbreaks that will overwhelm hospitals—especially in rural areas with limited intensive care facilities.

Because of the long incubation period of this virus, stay-at-home orders limiting non-essential movement only work if they're done early before an outbreak is a "problem." Waiting until cases are growing out of control is weeks too late to act.

Why should I care about this?

  • People who can't make difficult or unpopular decisions shouldn't be president.
  • This is way too late in the game for Trump to still be confused about the basic facts of this crisis.