Donald Trump this week declared that the US has “prevailed” in the fight against COVID-19.
The virus itself has other ideas.
On Monday evening, just before the president convened a press conference that ultimately went awry, a White House memo mandated most officials wear masks while in the West Wing. The move underscores concerns in the wake of a scare that forced the nation’s top health officials, as well as the vice president, into various states of self-isolation.
Global confirmed cases are now nearly 4.2 million. The death toll is approaching 290,000. 80,684 of those fatalities are in the US. Russia, after surpassing Italy on Monday, now has more confirmed cases than Spain, and the second most globally.
Worryingly, there are new cases in Wuhan, where all ~11 million residents will now be tested. The new infections are the first since the city’s lockdown was lifted.
The number of cases linked to an outbreak in Seoul nightclubs now exceeds 100.
Those latter two developments (new infections in Wuhan and a potential second wave in South Korea) make clear the perils of “normalizing” economic and leisure activity. Almost all experts expect the US to see at least an uptick in infection rates as states reopen.
Signs of life are showing up in Europe, with electricity demand rising to the highest in more than a month in France. Only the UK is still seeing falling consumption on a weekly basis.
While there may, in fact, be a figurative and literal light at the end of this tunnel, it is far too early for anyone (including and especially Donald Trump) to declare that humanity has “prevailed” over COVID-19.
Cases in the US are approaching 1.4 million. Do not let it be lost on you that it wasn’t all that long ago when the White House was hewing to a set of talking points that tacitly suggested US cases could top out below 20 – that’s twenty.
The death toll stateside clearly suggests models which tipped between 100,000 and 200,000 fatalities in the first wave will prove correct, albeit with the low-end looking far more likely than the high-end.
The notion that this is anything other than a tragedy is misguided at best, and cruel at worst. It’s not clear that anything has been “won” or, really, that anything has even been learned, other than that the world is woefully unprepared for pandemics, something scientists have long fretted over.
This is now a war of attrition with an invisible foe, which makes it not that much different from Vietnam and post-Saddam Iraq.
And speaking of that, below is an updated visual which gives you some context for the scope of this national tragedy.
There’s quite a ways to go before we catch the Spanish Flu, but the Civil War is well within the realm of possibilities assuming a second wave.
Again: Nothing about this shouts “we have prevailed”, and you can be sure that comparisons to George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech will be enshrined in thousands of macabre memes in the event things take another turn for the worse.