One day after the Trump-inspired attack on the Capitol by a violent mob of delusional, Fox-watching, bullshit-believers, the U.S. reached a major milestone of COVID-19 fatalities. The threshold of more than 4,000 pandemic deaths in a single day was breached just as the insurrectionists breached the U.S. Capitol.
It’s staggering that this terrifying threshold, that puts a fine point on just how bad this raging pandemic has actually become, was overshadowed by a political catastrophe actively inspired by the science- and reality-denying president whose incompetence helped the virus spread like a biological wildfire.
Watching unhinged thugs defile a sacred symbol of American democracy, I could not help but notice their utter disregard for the basic public health guidelines established to control the pandemic, including social distancing and wearing masks (except of course when tear gas and pepper spray were deployed).
Think of it this way: The insanity of Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, may have been another superspreader gathering—though the word itself seems insufficient to the megaspreader event with rioters in close inside quarters screaming, hearts pumping, adrenaline rushing and hyperventilating while members of Congress and their staffs huddled together, including several Republicans who reportedly refused to wear masks, even in the midst of this dangerous crisis and in tight proximity to other unprotected colleagues.
As members of Congress were being evacuated from the Capitol and moved to secure locations, a number of them were exposed to someone who turned out to be infected with the coronavirus, according to their attending physician.
On Monday, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to test positive for the virus following last week’s events. In a statement, she announced that she “believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots,” and noted that “a number of Members within the space ignored instructions to wear masks.”
Hours later, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D.-WA) became the second. Jayapal called out the "selfish idiocy" of the Republicans who "have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them," noting that "several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one."
Trump and his supporters have long politicized the risk of COVID-19, mocking the need for stringent public health precautions. And they have been unyielding deniers of Joe Biden’s indisputable victory in November’s presidential election. So it’s no surprise to see in surveys taken right after Wednesday’s chaos that 45 percent of Republicans said they supported the “protest” at the Capitol, with 30 percent of Republicans calling those so-called protesters “patriots.”
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a significant proportion of voting Republicans have actually become a public health menace themselves, supporting unleashed mob violence and unhinged flouting of measures to control the spread of COVID-19 by enraged insurgents and their congressional enablers.
And the American carnage wrought by Trump has by no means been confined to the Capitol building. Across the country, elected officials and public health policymakers are facing mounting reports of harassment and threats in response to their evidence-based strategies controlling the deadly outbreak
How far has this gone? In Colorado, local Republican officials have posted the names and home addresses of public health employees online, telling others to “Take this information and make your own decisions.”
There is reason to believe or hope that a significant majority of Trump voters have already accepted or will soon accept that Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. They are ready to move on and let a competent, caring government take on the work of controlling the pandemic and repairing the damaged economy.
But even if “only” 15 percent or so of extremist Trump voters refuse to accept reality, that would be a core of more than 10 million citizens seemingly committed to stoking violence and insurrection and to flouting any and all public health guidelines to control the pandemic. They must be pushed back and rejected by Republicans who genuinely care about our nation and its future. But that can only happen if Republican leaders can find the cojones to put aside political ambition and their inexplicable allegiance to loser Donald Trump. And if that is not possible they must step down.
At the very end of Trump’s pitiful presidency, the incredible number of COVID-19 deaths we suffered on the very day that his supporters attacked the representative branch of our government at his behest is a painful reminder of his incompetence and dishonesty in managing the pandemic. And his vandalism of our democracy and the damage it has done to our reputation in the world remind us of the overwhelming challenges President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their team will face in just a matter of days from now.