President Donald Trump contends that interest in the coronavirus is fading, even as cases are skyrocketing in the United States, a notion he hopes will play out for him at the polls next week.
“People are tired of COVID,” Trump said last week on a campaign call that was obtained by several news outlets. “Yup, there’s going to be spikes, there’s going to be no spikes, there’s going to be vaccines. With or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID.”
Trump pointed to his rallies, where social distancing and mask wearing are rarely observed, as evidence that people are over it.
“I have the biggest rallies I have ever had and we have COVID,” Trump said. “People are saying whatever, just leave us alone. They’re tired of it.”
The 2020 Presidential Race, in Graphics
But cases are surging in the U.S. The nation hit a record number of daily new cases last week and health officials report more than 8.7 million cases and 225,000 deaths. And Democratic nominee Joe Biden is taking a starkly different tone.
“The way [Trump is] handling COVID is just absolutely totally irresponsible,” Biden said on “60 Minutes.” “He’s telling people that we’ve turned the bend in one of his recent rallies. … I mean, we are in real trouble.”
Biden is not likely to let up on the Trump administration’s handling on the coronavirus. When asked what is the biggest domestic issue facing Americans, Biden said it’s the public’s health.
A recent poll from Pew Research Center shows that the differing strategies might align with the candidates’ bases.
Among registered Republicans, 24% said that the coronavirus will be very important to their vote. That’s compared to 82% of Democrats. Trump supporters who report the coronavirus as very important dropped 15 percentage points since August, while there hasn’t been a change among Biden supporters.
Meanwhile, almost every swing state is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases, according to Axios.
Despite Trump’s repeated messaging that the U.S. has “turned the corner” on the outbreak, public health experts believe the county is in a bad spot.
Leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the surge is still technically a first wave because the U.S. never brought cases down far enough to a good baseline, though he added that it is “kind of semantics.”
“I look at it more as an elongated and an exacerbation of the original first wave,” Fauci told Yahoo Finance.
Whether it’s called a third wave or extended first wave, Fauci said: “No matter how you look at it, it’s not good news.”
But Trump has tried to blame testing for the increase – seeking to find a familiar scapegoat in the media.
“Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high. On November 4th., topic will totally change. VOTE!”
While testing has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic, it is not enough to explain all the cases. Deaths and hospitalizations are also rising, which increased testing would not explain.
“While we are testing more than we were testing back in April or May, our testing has been reasonably flat over the last month, six weeks, up a little bit,” Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “What is really going on is a lot more infections.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows offered a glimpse into Trump’s coronavirus strategy on Sunday, saying the federal government would focus on developing vaccines and therapeutics rather than controlling the outbreak.
“We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,” Meadows told CNN.
The strategy might be true even inside the White House, where Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and other top aides recently tested positive. Pence, however, has decided not to quarantine and is instead continuing on his regular scheduling with Election Day nearing.
But the World Health Organization on Monday denounced any effort to give up on suppressing transmission of the virus.
“Controlling transmission is not only the government’s responsibility, but it’s also the business of each and every individual,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. “So nobody should give up on this. Government should do its share, and our citizens should do their share and do everything to minimize transmission.”