“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet tells his old childhood buddies in Shakespeare’s play, “but thinking makes it so.” President Donald Trump borrowed that principle this week as he strove in vain to turn bad news about the coronavirus into some kind of positive, casting the fast-growing number of cases as a good thing — evidence of success in expanding testing.
“We’re doing so well after the plague,” he told thousands of students at a rally in Arizona, where Covid-19 cases are spiraling up. “It’s going away.”
In reality, the number of new Covid-19 cases was increasing over the prior week’s levels in more than 30 states by Friday. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Congressional committee that Covid-19 has “brought this nation to its knees.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave this advice: “Plan A: Don’t go in a crowd. Plan B: If you do, make sure you wear a mask.”
As Dr. Kent Sepkowitz wrote, “The Covid-19 infection rate in the US is increasing at warp speed, alarming almost everyone outside the White House.” Some states are following the CDC’s guidance for a careful, phased reopening dependent on data. Others opened too soon, “wasting the weeks of tedious quarantine.” They resembled “an athlete, after months of grueling rehab from an injury, returning too soon and ending up back at square one after re-injuring the same bone or joint,” Sepkowitz wrote.
Jill Filipovic called the US “an outlier among nations, with more cases and more deaths than any nation in the world.” Its people “make up just over 4% of the world’s population, but about a quarter of global coronavirus deaths,” she noted. “And yet we haven’t reckoned with this massive, unmitigated public health failure.”
Trump and the White House gave wildly inconsistent messages on testing. First, the President said he told his team to slow it down, then he pushed back when his aides said he was just kidding about that (“I don’t kid”), and finally settled on: he was being sarcastic. In fact, the administration said it was going to stop funding 13 community-based testing sites. “Instead of pulling back on testing, the nation needs to double down on it,” wrote the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times. “This is how we beat the ‘invisible enemy,’ of which the president speaks. Not by covering our eyes and pretending it isn’t there.“
There is no harm in testing, wrote Frida Ghitis; the harm, Trump seems…