Healthcare workers from University of South Florida (USF) Health administer coronavirus testing at the Lee Dav…Read More
WASHINGTON: It’s back. Well, it never really went away. The United States reached its highest daily total of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with over 36,000 positive cases recorded, including record highs in California, Texas, and Florida. The previous nationwide record for new daily Covid-19 cases was set on April 25, with 34,203 cases, and the uptick in June is stoking fears of an “apocalyptic” surge if mitigation measures, which have been relaxed considerably across the country, is not calibrated and re-imposed to a degree.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington is now projecting that the American death toll will reach 180,000 by beginning of October unless the majority of people start wearing masks, a tough ask considering the US President himself disdains masks and other mitigation measures, and is going about his election campaign with public rallies of his pandemic-skeptical followers.
“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” IHME director Dr Christopher Murray said on Wednesday, as word trickled out that Trump is planning to attend a showy fireworks display on July 4 in Mount Rushmore, which many Native Americans regard as a symbol of white supremacy and racism.
An alarmed European Union is so concerned at the upsurge in US that is said to be considering banning Americans from traveling to EU when it starts to reopen on July 1, a stunning rebuff to its long-time patron, even as it lifts restrictions on China, which originated the virus. As it is, the US is now the world’s top coronavirus hotspot, with more than 2.3 million cases and nearing 125,000 deaths. The country has a quarter of all the cases in the world even though it makes up only 4 per cent of the world population, and more than twice the number of deaths as Brazil, another country whose leader took a dim view of the pandemic’s seriousness.
Deaths from Covid-19 continue to decline, but experts are warning that is because fatalities usually lag infections, and they may rise if the older demographic catches the virus from younger spreaders.
Within the US itself, the pandemic is now pitting in varying degrees states against states, Democrats against Republicans, old against young, conservatives and nativists against liberals, and whites against blacks and Hispanics. While Democratic-run states such as New York and New Jersey that took the initial brunt of pandemic managed to bend – if not flatten – the curve by imposing a strict lockdown and mitigation measures, many Republican states that disdained such steps are now seeing an upsurge in cases. In all 29 states, a majority of them Republican-run, are seeing a rise in infections.
Governors of Republican-administered states such as Texas and Florida who toed the Trump line, were dismissive of the mitigation measures, and rushed to re-open business, are now under attack, with calls for their resignation. On Thursday, Texas suspended elective surgeries in four counties that that are home to San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin, amid reports of hospital infrastructure under strain because of Covid-19 cases. Texas is now deferring a full re-opening.
President Trump himself appears unperturbed by the upsurge even as reports emerged that dozens of secret service officers and agents have been instructed to self-quarantine after two of them tested positive for coronavirus following his rally in Tulsa. He wants more rallies leading up to the Republican convention in August in Jacksonville, Florida, even as Democrats have announced that their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina will largely be a virtual, on-line event.
Latest polls show Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading Trump by anywhere from 10 to 14 points, including in crucial demographics such as 65+ white voters who catapulted Trump into the White House. Many of them are dismayed at the way Trump has handled the pandemic that disproportionately affects the older population. On Thursday, Washington was rocked by a report that said the treasury department issued about 1.1 million economic stimulus payments worth $1.4 billion – to people who were dead.
Cocking a snook at critics who feel his public engagements could result in an upsurge in cases, Trump is heading out for Independence Day celebrations to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where the faces of four US Presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – are carved into the granite mountainside.
Trump has said he would like his face to be added to the quartet even though the long-held Native American sentiment against the monument, which is built on their sacred land, is finding fresh resonance at a time there is a growing hostility towards statues and monuments of colonisers and white supremacists.