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Trump's COVID-19 gamble goes bust

Trump must reverse himself and use the power

Trump must reverse himself and use the power of the federal government and his own credibility with many Americans to stamp out the coronavirus and the foolishness that has let it rampage unchecked. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Six weeks ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned a U.S. Senate committee that the premature opening of the country posed “a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control ... not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”

Fauci was right.

What Fauci and other public health officials needed was the support of President Donald Trump and his allies and acolytes among the nation’s governors. States should have been corralled into following Trump’s federal gating guidelines of 14-day downward trends of infections to signal each phase of reopening. And Americans needed to be told to wear masks and cajoled into accepting social distancing. 

Instead, Trump and his allies fought the experts, calling the disease a hoax, the precautions unnecessary, and economic reopening the highest priority. Now, with daily infections up 75% since the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases made his plea, more than 121,000 dead and hospitals from Houston to Myrtle Beach to Phoenix to Los Angeles filling up, it has been proven so. The nation had more than 36,000 new infections Wednesday, an increase of 60% since Fauci’s dire prediction on May 12.

Yet Trump’s posturing continues. He still claims the pandemic is a “hoax” that will “fade away,” and after days of claiming he wants less testing so we’ll see fewer positives, the federal government said it will stop funding 13 testing sites, including seven in Texas, where infection rates are spiking.

The president must change course immediately to rescue the nation.

The administration should use its power to convince governors to require Americans to wear masks and follow social-distancing guidelines. States with outbreaks must slow down openings or resume closings. The federal government must fund the programs individuals and businesses need to withstand the economics of closures.

Most of all Washington must organize and coordinate stumbling state efforts on contact tracing so that carriers of the virus can be isolated. It must send a clear signal that testing should continue to increase. It must provide medical resources and ensure that protective equipment is in place as infections spike.

New York, Connecticut and New Jersey did what needed to be done and are now requiring that people coming from high-infection states quarantine for two weeks. Europe is mulling locking out Americans entirely. The United States, if it is to get this pandemic under control, must do so as a unified nation, because every outbreak somewhere will eventually endanger Americans everywhere.

The president gambled that he could go against medical experts and prioritize economic activity in his bid for reelection. He lost that gamble, but the cards are still being dealt every day.

Trump must reverse himself and use the power of the federal government and his own credibility with many Americans to stamp out this virus and the foolishness that has let it rampage unchecked.

— The editorial board