By Nikhila Natarajan
Nearly 170 days after the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States, the world’s richest nation is plunging deeper into crisis with upwards of 63,000 daily cases, ordinary Americans are bracing for a nightmarish second half of the year, political leadership is colliding with common sense public health guidance and the coronavirus is projected to kill 175,000 people by early to mid September, according to at least two well known predictive models.
There’s still no plan on how this story ends. The Trump White House has sidelined America’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, weaponised the gap between soaring cases and falling deaths, diverted attention to wedge issues and is igniting new racial divisions in election year while refusing to take a stand on universal masking during an ongoing killer pandemic.
Fauci points to the lack of “unanimity in approach” for the catastrophic American experience of the still raging virus, he points to states which “jumped over” reopening guidelines and the lack of “societal responsibility”.
In parallel, Trump continues to wing across the country for potentially super-spreader events, and has yet to be spotted wearing a mask.
With such contrasting world views, the Trump-Fauci falling out was waiting to happen. News is out that Fauci has not briefed Trump since early June. In the meantime, the White House came up with a new messaging plan that aligned better with its resistance to masks: “Live with it.”
The latest explosion in caseload has taken the shortest time compared with what was originally considered the darkest phase of the crisis. The first million cases came in about 100 days, the latest one million cases have come in barely 28 days.
Already, more than 3 million Americans have been sickened by the coronavirus, more than 133,000 are dead, there is no universal masking mandate and nationwide school reopening is the latest political football for the Trump White House.A
Flattened curves are a thing of the past, the United States infection curve is climbing on an alarming vertical path. Five states lead the latest surge in caseload – Florida, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina, which were among the first to reopen.
The typical COVID-19 patient is getting younger, people in their 30s are driving the latest surge. The Trump White House is pointing to lagging death figures as victories while Fauci continues to warn Americans against “(taking) comfort in the lower rate of death”.
“As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not”, straight-talking Fauci told FiveThirtyEight, an online news site.
With elections approaching and his polls tanking, Trump has escalated his public rebuke of Dr Fauci, who Americans say they trust more than the US President. “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.”
Trump’s latest target has been schools. Despite his rage tweeting claiming that schools provide “radical indoctrination”, most school systems are taking it one day at a time, keeping their sights on the local situation, not so much the politics. “The federal government does not decide if schools reopen, the state does” is the terse message coming from New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
Pushing back against the US president’s narrative, the American Academy of Pediatrics on Friday said decisions should be made by health experts and local leaders. “Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics,” the group wrote in a statement.
Educators and parents on the receiving end are readying for a wild ride, come September. “It’s the wild west, we’re all on our own. If we follow White House guidance, we’ll all get the virus for sure!”, Samira Warren Mack, a Morristown, New Jersey resident told IANS.