Donald Trump doesn’t care who gets sick or dies from COVID-19—even if it’s his own supporters. That’s the harsh reality of where we find ourselves as a nation as Trump holds superspreader campaign rallies and continues to intentionally—and I believe criminally—mislead Americans about this deadly virus because he believes this helps him politically.
When Trump resumed his campaign rallies on Sept. 8—after a summer hiatus because of the July COVID spike—our nation averaged approximately 36,000 new COVID cases per day. Over the past week, we’ve averaged a whopping 69,814 new cases per day. There’s a straight line between Trump’s rallies and this spike, with studies showing increases in areas where he held rallies and as he’s signaled to his supporters that mask-wearing and social distancing are signs of weakness.
Now, Trump has hit a new low with his desperate closing argument that COVID is not so much a health risk but an overhyped media story. That despite the United States setting a new record for most confirmed COVID cases with 83,700 new ones in a single day and five members of Vice President (and virus task force leader) Mike Pence’s staff, including his body man, testing positive for the virus. But here’s Trump at rally after rally blaming the media for sensationalizing the virus to hurt him politically: "Turn on television, right. COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID.” He added, to the cheers of supporters, “By the way on November 4th you won’t hear about it anymore.”
Trump knows that neither the virus will nor the media coverage of it will be disappearing come Nov. 4 because his own health experts have been warning for months that this will be “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”
Trump gets that he failed at handling the virus. That’s why he made the choice to stop fighting it and start spewing even more lies. Trump’s own chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told us that point-blank Sunday while on CNN with Jake Tapper, “We are not going to control the pandemic.” When pressed by Tapper on why not, Meadows—like Trump has in the past—falsely equated COVID with the flu, stating, “because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”
Even before Meadows’ admission, Biden had called it, saying of the president that, “He's given up. He's quit on you. He's quit on your family. He's quit on America.” Following Meadows’ CNN interview, Biden slammed Trump for “waving the white flag of defeat.”
We have never seen an American president surrender to a deadly foe like this before. It would’ve been like FDR surrendering to the Nazis after only fighting them for eight months. Or George W. Bush in May 2002 giving up on protecting us from the threat posed by al Qaeda just eight months after 9/11.
Trump’s claim that the virus is just media hype is actually nothing new but it’s far more irresponsible now. As a reminder, on Feb. 28, the night before the first American died from COVID, Trump held a rally in South Carolina where he made his infamous remark that the virus was the Democrats “new hoax.” Trump also, after patting himself on the back by saying “so far we have lost nobody to coronavirus,” then slammed the media for its coverage of the virus saying, “the press is in hysteria mode." At the time, the media was raising red flags this virus could be deadly, yet Trump chose to attack them, not COVID.
Despite Trump’s lies, the facts tell us to be alarmed. Hospitalizations are now spiking across various states. Even Trump’s GOP ally, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, is taking this seriously, announcing Sunday plans for makeshift hospitals in the El Paso areas to meet the needs caused by the virus. In the red state of Utah, officials are making plans to possibly ration care due to overwhelming number of COVID cases.
Tragically, and despite Trump’s lies to the contrary, there’s every sign that the coronavirus crisis will be getting worse, not better, after Election Day. An influential model from the University of Washington warns us the United States could see between 415,090 and 600,000 deaths by Jan. 1. The director of the program, Dr. Christopher Murray, put it bluntly, “We're going to have a very deadly December ahead of us in terms of toll of coronavirus."
It’s not that Trump, who told Bob Woodward on Feb. 7 that the virus is more deadly than the most “strenuous flu,” doesn’t know better. But knowing better hasn’t made him care. It hasn’t stopped him from lying about the virus. And it’s not stopping him from closing his campaign by spreading the virus by way of his rallies and lies—even if that means killing his own supporters.