As a nation we have underestimated this virus. We have also, sadly, overestimated the capacity of our president, Donald J. Trump, and his administration to come to grips with the virus, a raging global pandemic in which Florida is now among the hottest spots.
U.S. daily new cases of COVID-19, the disease spawned by the virus, are pushing up against a frightening figure — 80,000 a day. And the daily death toll nationally has edged past 1,000.
Thankfully, Democratic governors and a handful of Republican governors have bucked Trump’s aversion to instituting mask mandates and have done it anyway. Three of the latter include West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was a latecomer to the mask mandate club, as Texas’ total coronavirus cases soared past 353,000 and the Lone Star State’s overall death toll from the virus topped 4,200. Other states where the virus is surging are Georgia, Arizona, and California.
The White House press corps has picked up clear signals from insiders that Trump himself had dearly hoped to “move on” from focusing on the coronavirus and its devastation and was looking for ways to distract the public with other issues.
One gambit Trump tried was to send a fatigue-clad federal force into Portland, Oregon, to protect federal buildings and federal monuments from any would-be arsonists or protesters prone to scratch monuments or deface them with graffiti. Instead, some members of the force were caught on video picking up a protester just walking home and throwing him into an unmarked van.
The arresting officers apparently were not identifying themselves as part of any federal or state agency. When the 13 or so they arrested demanded to see ID or be given an explanation, they were released from custody.
This revelation brought down a storm of outraged criticism of the move by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and both of Oregon’s senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. All three are Democrats.
In another bizarre moment, Trump lined up on the Resolute Desk in his office an array of food products from the Trump-supporting Goya companies and proceeded to pitch the products to anyone watching on television. He looked like the jolly apron-clad food demonstrator at Walmart or Kroger, complete with a wide grin and two thumbs up.
Simultaneously Americans are having to cope with the gravest public health crisis to besiege our country since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and also arguably the most serious dereliction of duty of any president reaching back to our colonial beginnings.
The Spanish flu killed upwards of 20 million worldwide and 675,000 in our country alone. Projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci and other infectious disease specialists now say U.S. deaths from the coronavirus could, over time, approach those connected with the 1918 pandemic.
With the coronavirus so out of hand, Trump has held off doing rallies around the country. He also canceled, late last week, the booking for the Republican nominating convention in Jacksonville, Florida, August 24-27. Other arrangements are in process.
Deprived of his usual campaign rallies, Trump took to turning press conferences on the White House lawn into rally-like events. Staff cheered his every remark while a masked White House press corps was lucky to get six minutes of Trump’s time for questions and answers.