Wednesday, July 8, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He pretended he was president of countries that had dealt with COVID-19 much better.

Today, Trump demanded that schools reopen in the fall no matter what the pandemic situation is in any given place.

Of course, in reality, no adult—parents, "Dems," employers, educators, or anyone else—wants schools to remain closed unless absolutely necessary. 

It's not clear if Trump understands how much more severe the COVID-19 outbreak is in the country he's president of than in those four. This is a graph of positive coronavirus tests in the United States and the countries he mentioned:

Sweden is something of an outlier among them. Unlike every other country in Europe, it pursued a more voluntary form of social distancing—essentially, the closest thing in the developed world to Trump's version of a quick and mild shutdown. The result has been a much more serious and persistent outbreak than in its neighbors.

In any event, Trump has no legal power to defund public schools, which are administered and paid for at the local level. He could—and did—force the CDC to abandon its recommendations to schools.

Why does this matter?

  • Trying to turn public health into a political wedge issue isn't good for public health or politics.
  • Leaders who aren't weak don't make empty threats.