In January, when the details of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan were trickling out of China, there was a lot of mistrust. The government’s rosy predictions for the trajectory of the disease didn’t line up with orders for hundreds of thousands of urns and crematoriums apparently working overtime.
Now, we see the same sneaky behavior from the U.S. government. This week NBC revealed that the White House had placed an order for more than 100,000 body bags just hours after Donald Trump told the nation the death toll likely wouldn’t exceed 60,000.
To be clear, the order placed on April 21 hasn’t been shipped and may not need to be filled. No one is accusing the U.S. government of fudging its coronavirus death tally. But the stark contrast between what the government is preparing for and what Donald Trump is presenting to the public could prove to be even more dangerous than China’s alleged coverup.
After Trump told the world he revised down the potential death toll, the president’s supporters started to question the seriousness of the virus. They attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci any time he commented on the severity of the disease. They accused local governments of holding them hostage.
A movement was born. Protests erupted around the U.S. putting local leaders under enormous pressure to start reopening whether health experts thought it was best or not. In Michigan, gun-toting protestors stormed the state capitol demanding stay-at-home orders be lifted.
Meanwhile, with more than 40,000 cases, the state has been one of the hardest hit. Nearly one-in-four people tested for the virus come up positive, suggesting the state’s testing capacity is severely lacking.
Where were those protestors in early April when Trump soberly warned that millions could die from coronavirus? Unlike other world leaders who continue to advocate social distancing, caution, and patience, Trump has been spurring on the protestors flouting social distancing rules and challenging state authority.
If, at his daily briefings, he had been warning that the government is preparing for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the event of a second outbreak, would people be taking to the streets demanding to get their hair done? If he were standing on the podium supporting lawmakers like Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others who don’t want to risk a second wave without the proper testing facilities in place, would these people continue to challenge experts’ warnings?
Instead, Donald Trump’s ‘cheerleading’ has created suspicion, mistrust, and divisiveness. He’s left it up to state lawmakers to open on their terms, presumably so the fallout of a second wave can’t be traced back to his administration. But his vow to let local governments handle their reopening plans isn’t strictly true. All the while, he’s been pushing supporters to challenge them at every step of the way.
So, while the Chinese government’s secrecy might be to blame for the initial coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump’s dishonesty could be responsible for a disastrous second wave. There’s a fine line between avoiding panic and hiding the truth, and Donald Trump has ventured quite far past it.
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Last modified: June 24, 2020 1:03 AM UTC