edics work with a COVID-19 patient at the isolation ward of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on July 29, 2020. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images
Sometime this week, even as we see Donald Trump being treated for COVID-19, it is likely we will hit 212,000 American deaths from coronavirus in seven months.
That is a mark passing U.S. deaths from conflicts in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and World War I – reflected symbolically over the weekend with 20,000 empty chairs on the Washington Mall.
Globally, of course, we’re over a million deaths.
It’s a sober and ignoble achievement—a total that public awareness and attention should have kept lower, one whose growth rate should be diminishing and one that seems to encapsulate our divisive mentality about safety for others.
Despite whatever efforts Trump, state governors, government health officials or others want to claim, the maps of disease growth show the United States faring worse than most other industrialized nations on most measures of per population disease control and deaths. This comes even as treatment options have improved and medical treatment has adjusted to recognizing opportunities for earlier intervention.
The total contagion counts show the insistence of Americans to resist even the simplest forms of protection, even while demanding that someone else provide it – for free.
And the president’s own nuttiness about insisting on a spin around the block as if to show off his good health before returning to the hospital just illustrates he is not even taking his own case very seriously. He just exposed everyone in the car. His personal campaign to look strong despite illness frankly is a mystifying version of leadership, for pushing for earlier-than-expected release back to the White House.
Even as pro-Trump crowds were gathering outside Walter Reed Hospital to cheer an ailing president, those waving flags and banners were standing together mostly mask-less, without proscribed physical distancing in some kind of tribal rejection of public health rules. The White House was reported to be doing little toward tracing those who may have been infected in contact with Trump or his close circle. And the president was taking pains to show himself publicly as a strong survivor of the coronavirus challenge, making the White House itself a live contagion point, as if that makes the disease less potent for those without his access to daily testing.
The reality we still face is that whether Trump emerges days from now in peachy health to successfully pursue election victory as one who has survived the coronavirus or opponent Joe Biden wins for being a far more sober, careful candidate respectful of the demands of the disease, coronavirus is still going to be here. It will be a long slog to get through it – something that Trump does not want to own. Even if we get a vaccine, Americans are saying by droves that they don’t see taking it.