For weeks we've heard from doctors, epidemiologists, and other scientists that the coronavirus won't be psyched out or distracted or duped into disappearing, irrespective of happy talk from Trump or gloomy forebodings from Fauci. The virus does what it wants as viruses are wont to do.
It does though appear to have shifted its allegiance from Democrat to Republican, something apparent in the uptick of cases in parts of the country not previously hard hit.
I refer to the red states.
In late March and all through April, the southern and midwestern states were eager to reopen, and they found a willing accomplice in Donald Trump; after all, that's where his votes came from. He's not going to carry New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, or Washington, and so allowing the citizens in those states to dictate the pace at which America moved forward or didn’t move at all grated on him and annoyed the hell out of people in Georgia, Iowa, Arizona, and the like.
They clamored for their right to bowl and press against each other in swimming pools, and knuckling under meekly, Trumpian governors acceded to their wishes. Now it appears that the first states to reopen will be among the first to re-close. It would all be funny—a little bit of schadenfreude—were it not for the fact that the people in those swimming pools don't live in those pools. When they towel off and go home, they carry all the little virulent droplets with them. And tonight in Tulsa, all those attendees at the Trump Love Fest and Adulation Festival (some wags have labeled it Covid-Fest 2020) will be doing the same and worse—worse because they will transport those droplets on interstate journeys to Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, etc.
At the heart of this, and seemingly at the heart of everything, lies a failed or nonexistent national policy, the product of a failed, non-existent administration. And to the rest of the world, we look like clowns, as if we have given up. In the words of Siouxsie Wiles, an infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, “It really does feel like the U.S. has given up.” She would know—her country has confirmed only three new cases over the last three weeks, and New Zealanders have now largely returned to their pre-coronavirus routines.
And Americans? In states where cases are spiking, we continue to plow forward as if Covid-19 didn’t exist, as if the death toll were not 120,000, as if a man speaking in an enclosed arena with 20,000 screaming people present was perfectly logical.
It's easy to say that the rally attendees aren't thinking clearly, but their unforgivable sin is their callousness. At the height of the scourge in New York and Boston, big-city hospitals were able to marshal all their resources and still just barely survive. What will happen in backwater towns in those red states when the patient load overwhelms the system? It's not just the partiers who will suffer—it will be more health care workers again paying the price—for some, the ultimate price—so that an ignorant narcissist can have his ego trip.
The virus, of course, does what it wants and afflict whom it wants, but there are steps we can take to redirect it, mitigate it, deflect it. A rally in a packed auditorium is not one of those steps.