America is losing the stomach to fight Covid-19

June 11th, 2020  |  Source:

The country is now on the verge of leaving the battlefield before the war is over
It is an odd moment to surrender to coronavirus. Right and left, conservative and liberal — all parts of the US spectrum embraced the language of war. The metaphor was clearly too glib.

Downgrading the fight now would be like George Washington taking a vacation after crossing the Delaware. Mission accomplished only works when there is a vaccine, which is at least a year away. Yet large parts of the country, including Donald Trump, are taking victory laps. Little surprise that Anthony Fauci, the most trusted face of American science, is no longer pictured anywhere near Mr Trump. His last televised White House appearance was in April. This week Dr Fauci said the pandemic was “not close to over yet”.
The same cannot be said for the task force to which he belongs, which is being wound up. That signal needs no decoding. The White House has lost any interest in prosecuting the war, which is now the preserve of the states.
A few weeks ago Europe was far ahead of the US in terms of mortality rates. They have now switched places. America continues to lose about 1,000 people a day — and in some states that are relaxing social distancing rules, infection and hospitalisation rates are rising. This week Berkeley scientists estimated the US had prevented 60m infections by taking early lockdown measures. That is roughly 250,000 deaths that did not happen.
The period the scientists analysed was up to April 6, which implies many more lives have been saved since then. That discipline is now dissolving. Mr Trump will restart his re-election campaign next week with a full-blown rally in Oklahoma — his first since early March. That will give a green light for Americans to crowd together again without censure. Las Vegas is broadcasting even starker images. Its slot machines are ringing again. To judge by the footage, most punters are not wearing masks. Forget war. Going for the jackpot is a more fitting metaphor for America’s coming pandemic summer. As scientists keep reminding us, the virus respects no boundaries. Unfortunately that applies as much to the Black Lives Matter protests as it does to armed paramilitaries crowding their state capitals. This has blunted the Democratic party’s ability to criticise Mr Trump for filling the stadiums, as he is likely to do next week. Covid-19 does not distinguish between decent people and white nationalists. In a deeply polarised nation, ideology beats science.
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