And now he may be making the same mistake again.
With 184,000 Americans already dead, White House officials are hoping that Trump’s dive into cultural warfare following protests and unrest over police brutality will to some extent cover over his liabilities on the pandemic, sources told CNN reporters. Following last week’s Republican National Convention that largely ignored the virus,Trump is making yet another premature declaration of victory over the worst public health disaster in 100 years.
“We’ve done a great job in Covid but we don’t get the credit,” Trump said on Fox News on Monday.
“Mr. Trump, you want to talk about fear?” Biden asked on Monday.
“Do you know what people are afraid of in America? They’re afraid they’re going to get Covid. They’re afraid they’re going to get sick and die, and that is in no small part, it’s because of you.”
“We risk a blow-back. We risk one step forward, three steps backwards,” Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Monday night.
“That’s what happened with this administration opening too soon in southern states. That’s what’s happening in schools opening where there’s lots of COVID, and having to slam shut again,” he added. “We don’t want that to happen with a vaccine, because vaccines are precious. They’re our most powerful tools to control a pandemic.”
Discord inside coronavirus task force
“Whether the number is 2 million, 1 million Americans dead, it’s unacceptable,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University, told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday.
Sources told CNN that that key players around Trump inside the administration have all but given up hope of quelling the virus with the aggressive suppression and mitigation efforts advocated by trusted medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Some colleges and smaller schools have succeeded with rigorous testing and quarantine programs with safe openings. But every day brings more stories of the broader reopening going off the rails. At least 37 states are reporting a total of 25,000 positive cases of Covid-19 at colleges and universities.
Time is running out before the election
Trump’s demands for swift openings of state economies earlier this year helped unleash a wave of sickness and death across sunbelt states that had escaped the initial peaks of infection that hammered New York and California.
But two months before Election Day, and with time running out for the rocketing economic bounce-back he has promised, Trump is again ignoring the potential consequences of a rapid return to normal.
“We’re opening it up and we’re opening it up to record numbers,” he said in New Hampshire on Friday night. “Democrats are keeping their states shut down and hurting people that live in those states.”
After months of lockdowns and stay at home orders, Americans are impatient to have their lives back. And it may be time to rebalance the risk between becoming infected and living with a semblance of normality. But in a dereliction of duty, Trump’s administration has failed to put in place measures like a massive test and tracing program that might make such a goal possible and limit its potential danger.
Trump, instead, is focused on other things.
On Tuesday, the President revealed that he has spoken to the commissioner of the Big Ten to try and get its games back on, after the college powerhouse conference postponed its season over coronavirus concerns, including shortages of testing capabilities and concerns over the long-term health impact of the disease on athletes. Several other conferences plan to go ahead with games, and Trump piled pressure on the Big Ten to follow suit.
“We’re pushing very hard. … I think they want to play, and the fans want to see it, and the players have a lot at stake, including possibly playing in the NFL,” he told reporters.
The President’s initiative — which does not appear to include new measures to solve the issues that caused the season pause — looks like yet another attempt to downplay science in a bid to recreate normality. While the prospect of no fall football is unthinkable, the Big Ten just happens to include several schools in crucial Midwest swing states like Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, which may explain the sports-fan-in-chief’s concern.
The college football push is the latest sign of the deficit in Trump’s approach to the virus. Time and again the US experience — one being learned in the rest of the world — is that the virus just doesn’t go away. The only way to reopen colleges, businesses, restaurants and travel is to conquer it.