Amid dropping poll numbers and ongoing protests against police violence, Donald Trump was relatively quiet about the pandemic this week. On Twitter, he promoted conspiracy theories about antifa’s involvement in the protests, ranted about “law and order,” and insulted presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other perceived enemies.
Trump clearly would like to limit his focus to whichever issues he deems most politically advantageous on any given day, or to make false claims that minimize the scope of the pandemic’s damage to our country. But four months into this ongoing health and economic crisis, COVID-19 still shows no signs of slowing.
- During one particular press conference on June 5, Trump racked up a series of misleading and outright false statements. First, he congratulated himself for his purported leadership during the pandemic. “We made every decision correctly,” Trump said, “and now the trajectory is great.” But that simply isn’t true: COVID-19 is on the rise in 21 U.S. states. This week, 14 states and Puerto Rico hit their highest seven-day average of new infections, and the U.S. passed a total of two million cases nationwide.
- Trump also denied the pandemic’s devastating impact on our economy. During that same press conference, Trump referenced the jobs report that touted growth of 2.5 million jobs, and claimed, “We’re bringing our jobs back.” However, the following day, news broke that due to a misclassification error the overall unemployment percentage in May was three percent higher than was previously reported: At least 21 million Americans were unemployed last month. Last week alone, more than 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment.
- In order to evade blame for the still increasing number of confirmed cases nationwide, Trump again lied during the press conference. He claimed that the rising number is simply the result of an increase in testing, rather than a consequence of his own premature push to reopen the economy. Public health experts disagree. Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness, stated that the “surge numbers are real,” while Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health expert, connected specific states’ reopening measures to the corresponding rise in COVID-19 infection rates. “The data that I’ve seen from Verizon and even Apple and Google suggest that people are moving a lot in states like California and Arizona and North Carolina, and those happen to be three of the six states where you’re seeing the biggest spike of cases,” Gupta said.
- During the same press conference, Trump also said that there are 2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine “ready to go,” despite the fact that none of the vaccines currently being developed or tested have been proven effective. Neither the White House nor the Department of Health and Human Services provided reporters with any additional information or clarity on Trump’s statement. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s supply of the sole drug that seems to actually help coronavirus patients will run out by the end of June.
- Trump continues to refuse to wear a mask or other protective equipment during his visits to companies that make products needed to detect and contain COVID-19. Shortly after his June 5 visit to a Maine factory that produces testing swabs, a spokesperson from the facility confirmed that the swabs produced during his tour would need to be scrapped. She did not provide an explicit reason for throwing away the products, but the disruption in production comes amid a statewide shortage of swabs and other testing supplies and highlights Trump’s persistent disregard for workers’ health or safety.
- News of the Trump administration’s failure to assist everyday Americans during the pandemic continues to come to light:
- On June 8, ProPublica broke down the differences in the CARES Act’s financial support by socioeconomic status, reporting that the CARES Act provided millionaires and billionaires with billions in tax breaks, compared to the “small change” most Americans received from the one-time stimulus checks (while as many as 35 million people are still waiting for those checks).
- Despite Trump’s promise that everyone would be able to get tested for COVID-19 for free, there are reports cropping up across the country of patients still being charged thousands of dollars in unexpected bills for their coronavirus tests.
- The bidding process for contracts to provide the federal government with much-needed COVID-19 supplies has come under scrutiny, with NPR reporting that the government has spent billions on these contracts without fully vetting many companies that were chosen.
- On June 8, Trump announced his plans to restart his signature MAGA campaign rallies by the end of this month, claiming that there is a “BIG DEMAND” for him to return to the campaign trail. The first cities on his rally list include locations in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina, all of which are currently experiencing dangerous new spikes in confirmed cases. Registration for these rallies includes a disclaimer that attendees cannot sue Trump if they contract COVID-19 while in attendance. Resuming in-person campaign rallies while the virus rages on will likely prolong the duration of this public health crisis, but as we have witnessed during and even before the pandemic, Trump prioritizes his own self-interest over the safety and well-being of the American people. In addition to the rallies, his upcoming schedule will include in-person campaign fundraisers and travel to his luxury resort in New Jersey.
Despite Trump’s attempts to divert and distract, this fact remains: in the recent words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, coronavirus “isn’t over yet.”