July 23, 2024

darkest winter in modern history

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
“The darkest winter in modern history”
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – The grim reality is that at the current rate, the United States will suffer 200,000 coronavirus deaths by the end of June. But that current rate may not be the ongoing rate because many states at the behest of President Trump are ending their shelter-in-place programs before they have met the CDC guidelines. So, in an unthinkable, avoidable, and tragic scenario, the death toll in America could mushroom beyond any current estimate.
    A month ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the world’s leading epidemiologist and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, revised his estimate of the total number of deaths from 100,000 to 60,000 if the nation followed safe practices. New York and a few other states did. Many did not, and as of this writing, the death toll is 87,000. The president did not listen to Dr. Fauci.
          Now, the battle lines have been drawn. It came to a head when President Trump and Dr. Fauci differed on opening the schools in the fall for 50 million grade-schoolers and 20 million college students.
          Fauci testified Tuesday before the Senate that expecting a vaccine to be available by then is “a bridge too far.” Without a vaccine or better therapeutics to treat Covid-19, Fauci warned of “needless suffering and death” if schools and other institutions open too soon.
          Trump said Fauci’s answer is “unacceptable,” that he “wants to play all sides of the equation.”
          Trump amplified his argument on Fox News: “We can’t keep going on like this. You’re having bedlam already in the streets. You can’t do this.” Fox News hosts joined the chorus against Fauci. Tucker Carlson called him the “chief buffoon of the professional class,” and Laura Ingraham said Fauci is leading the “panic parade” about the virus.
          Never mind that polls show the American people by 2 to 1 understand the severity of the pandemic and most are abiding by stay-at-home orders where they still exist, orders Trump wants to end with the help of his ideological allies. “We have met the moment, and we have prevailed,” Trump said at a Rose Garden event.
          There is a rational debate to be had between public health experts and economists over how to slowly re-open the country while balancing the risk of infection. That is not the debate Trump and his allies want. They want to pretend that the surge of infections is limited to densely packed urban areas in blue states, and that the rest of the country should not be shut down against the will of their people. But for those who are out there – encouraged by the president – protesting about stay-at-home orders violating their right to assemble, this is not about the Constitution, it is about public safety.
          The GOP-controlled legislature in Wisconsin voted to cancel an extended stay-at-home order by the Democratic governor. In Texas and Georgia, states that boasted about being first to loosen restrictions, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is rising rapidly. In Florida, where Governor DeSantis models himself after Trump, the state’s caseload does not reflect all the spring breakers and tourists who contracted Covid-19 while having fun in the sun, before carrying Covid-19 home with them.
          This virus is highly transmissible, and it’s coming for you, whoever you are and wherever you live unless you listen to the CDC for public safety guidelines, and not to false health claims and conspiracy theories designed to reelect a president who is presiding over Depression-era levels of unemployment and a pandemic he refuses to combat with the full resources of the federal government.
          But there are successful examples such as South Korea, where the testing, contact tracing, facemasks, and stay-at-home orders came early and were enforced. The total death toll there: as of today, 260. And Korea reopened and just as quickly clamped down again when new outbreaks surfaced following national holiday celebrations in April. America never came close to emulating Korea.
          On May 14, Dr. Richard Bright ousted director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health: “We need still a comprehensive plan. . .. There are critical steps that we need to do to prepare . . . we do not still have enough personal protective equipment to manage our health care workers . . . we still do not have the supply chains ramped up for the drugs and vaccines, and we still don’t have plans in place for how we distribute those drugs and vaccines. We still do not have a comprehensive testing strategy.”
          His warning was bleak: “Our window of opportunity is closing," and it will be “the darkest winter in modern history.”
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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