On June 19, PFAW closed in observance of Juneteenth to encourage our staff and members to reflect on structural anti-Black racism and deepen our commitment to anti-racist action. To not distract from these efforts, we suspended last week’s “Falsehoods and Failures” update. Here is the round-up for this week.
Donald Trump continues to ignore the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and is moving full steam ahead with his reelection campaign. As of June 23, Trump had downplayed the threat of the coronavirus 60 distinct times since January by claiming that the virus is “dying out,” irrespective of the growth in cases, hospitalizations, and the death rate in the U.S.
Contrary to the president’s lies, COVID-19 cases increased by 25 percent last week compared to the previous week. On June 25, for the second day in a row the U.S. had the highest number of new cases in a single day since April. Health experts warn that the U.S. could likely reach 180,000 deaths by October if federal leaders do not take drastic steps to curtail the spread soon.
- Despite the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma and Arizona, Trump resumed in-person campaign rallies in both states. Masks and other safety measures at all of these rallies were optional; in fact, Trump encouraged tightly packed crowds at these rallies because socially distanced crowds cause the events to “[lose] a lot of flavor.”
- At the June 20 Tulsa rally, Trump admitted that he ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing as a means of down-playing infection and death rates, and continues to attribute the still-growing numbers to the increase in testing, rather than the rapid and premature reopening of these states. On June 23, Dr. Deborah Birx privately pushed back against Trump’s claims, and told governors to continue increasing their testing efforts. Four other top health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, also contradicted Trump’s testing claims in their testimonies to Congress that day.
- In Phoenix on June 23, Trump claimed Democrats were trying to keep the country shut down to hurt both the economy and his reelection campaign, and said that the country had reached “the end of the pandemic.”
- As Trump forges ahead with his campaign rallies, COVID-19 is spreading within his team. In addition to the six campaign staff members who tested positive before Trump’s Tulsa rally, two more staff members tested positive after the event and many more have been instructed to self-quarantine.
- The Los Angeles Times reported on June 23 that Trump has considered ending the national state of emergency declaration, a move that would cease vital funding to control the outbreak. Additionally, Republican-elected officials and others within the Trump administration are still actively working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has the potential to strip health insurance coverage from over 23 million people in the midst of a pandemic.
- More than two months after Congress passed the coronavirus relief bill, the Trump administration has not yet distributed at least $14 billion allocated for federal coronavirus testing and contact tracing. The Government Accountability Office also released a report that found that the Treasury Department wasted valuable time and effort by sending stimulus checks to more than one million dead people.
- Trump’s xenophobia and racism continue to influence his rhetoric on and decision-making about the pandemic, causing further damage to communities of color that are already disproportionately suffering. On June 15, Trump said that “China should not have let [the pandemic] happen.” On June 22, he suspended thousands of foreign worker visas under the pretense of curtailing COVID-19’s spread. At both the Tulsa and Phoenix rallies, he used the racist term “kung flu” to refer to the virus.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified in front of Congress that there will be no full economic recovery until the pandemic has been fully neutralized. In the meantime, its economic impact continues to hurt millions of Americans. Last week was the 14th straight week that unemployment claims surpassed the one million mark. Up to 12 million low-income people who aren’t required to file income taxes could miss out on receiving their stimulus payments, and food banks and other vital assistance programs have only received a small fraction of their allotted assistance. Lastly, as many as 23 million people are at risk of being evicted if the previous relief measures aren’t renewed before September 30.
By continuing to ignore and lie about the facts, Trump is ensuring that more Americans will be harmed by the pandemic. That’s why it is vital that Congress pass the HEROES Act.