Trump Just Couldn’t Resist One Last Superspreader
He unleashed violence on the U.S. Capitol. Now he may unleash COVID on a Texas town already struggling with the pandemic.
A week after President Trump unleashed the storming of the U.S. Capitol building, a Texas public health official worried he will now be unleashing COVID-19 with a gathering at the border wall.
“I am very concerned that if there is a crowd without social distancing that there may be transmission,” Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority, told The Daily Beast. “Without masks absolutely.”
If all the many previous Trump events during the pandemic are any indication, Tuesday’s gathering in the town of Alamo—not to be confused with the old Spanish mission 250 miles north where the 1823 battle was fought—will indeed be largely maskless.
And there is no reason to believe that folks there will be observing social distancing, though Melendez said that law enforcement will seek to keep them from forming groups larger than the 10 maximum set by the county’s emergency order.
“But what law enforcement tries to do and what crowds do are two different things,” Melendez noted.
Melendez had not yet obtained a crowd forecast as of Monday evening, but he predicted, “If you have more than a thousand people, there will definitely be transmission.”
He emphasized that he was only concerned with health, not politics.
“I’m everybody’s friend, except the virus,” he said.
He saw what an enemy the virus can be during a surge over the summer. The number of new cases subsequently subsided, but began to pick up again as Halloween was followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve, with a pandemic death toll reaching 2,253.
That is 10 times the number of Texans killed in the battle of the Alamo. Tuesday’s photo op in the city of Alamo is being held as a post-holidays surge in the pandemic is heading for a new peak. The last thing the count needs is any added transmission. Melendez himself admitted five new COVID patients on Monday.
“And that’s just me,” he said.
When Trump announced the Alamo visit, the Twittersphere where he once wielded such power filled with speculation that he might not be aware that the town is not actually the scene of the battle of that name. Others figured he knew the difference but was nonetheless trying to associate the disastrous finale of his presidency with the famous last stand.
What is now clear is that the town of Alamo may be one of Trump’s last superspreaders as president.
He has held many other superspreaders, and a Stanford University study estimates that at least 750 people died as a result. We should hope that he does not add a few more deaths with a bogus event celebrating the supposed completion of 400 miles of border wall. Only 30 miles of it are new construction, the rest simply repairs to existing structures or replacement of motor vehicle barriers.
Melendez is not in favor of the wall, but here, too, his opinion is not political. He cited an Hidalgo County witticism.
“The same guys who build the wall, do you know what they do at night? They’re building the tunnels,” he said.
He suggested that Trump might have managed a much better photo op that played into one of the administration’s actual achievements. Trump would have only needed to make a stop 15 miles north of Alamo and the border wall. One of the vaccines whose approval he actually did expedite will be administered to 6,500 people at a “mass vaccination clinic sponsored by DHR Health at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg.
Melendez had heard that a Trump train was forming for the president’s visit to Alamo, but however long it is, it will almost certainly be shorter than the line that began forming at noon on Monday outside an Edinburg soccer stadium designated as a staging area for the mass vaccination at the arena.
Registration there was set to begin at 7 p.m. The first 6,500 people to submit a form asserting they were either health-care workers, residents of a long term health-care facility, or 65 and older, or 18 and older with chronic medical conditions were then given an armband. A sign attested that overnight parking was permitted there. The inoculations were set to begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Trump could have been there to greet them and take credit for something that he at least partly deserves. He may have stoked the pandemic by seeking to minimize it for political purposes and by hosting reckless rallies, but he at least—in his own warped way—did speed up the only way to end it. The photo op would have made clear that many of those getting shots at the arena looked like folks he vilified to rouse border hysteria.
“A lot of brown and impoverished people,” Melendez said.
Upon departing the arena, Trump could have taken a few minutes to meet with Melendez and hear how Hidalgo has been pulling off a kind of miracle by focusing on actually getting vaccines administered.
The rest of the county has only managed to vaccinate 1 percent of the population; Hidalgo has vaccinated 10 percent.
“It’s a very good number,” Melendez noted.
He said the key is not to be stymied by bureaucratic strictures.
“We’re very good at getting vaccines into arms,” he said.
As the 6,500 expected to get the vaccine on Tuesday lined up at the area, a Trump train is expected to be forming in Alamo to mark the outgoing president’s last superspreader.
Melendez will check the size of the crowd at the border wall to gauge how much transmission it might generate. He will then go back to getting vaccine into ever more arms.
And, having likely help spread more COVID-19 at the border wall, Trump will return to face the aftermath of having unleashed the mob that stormed the Capitol.
His greatest crime is one not in the proposed articles of impeachment. It’s deserting the nation in its greatest emergency and abetting a pandemic that has killed more than 1,000 times the toll at the Battle of the Alamo.