There is a partisan divide developing between Republicans and Democrats that has been created and pushed by Trump and the ultra- conservative right wing. The divide is over reopening the economy or staying shut down. Which is a false choice. We can see that other countries are doing way better than we are because they are following science and basing their policies on real facts not alternative facts.

Trump is trying to bury the facts. He won’t let Anthony Fauci testify before Congress. He just removed Christi Grimm at DHS for daring to say the truth- that many hospitals do not have sufficient protective gear to keep their workers safe. He removed Dr. Rick Bright from his post as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority where he was working to develop a vaccine because Bright raised the alarm about the coming coronavirus outbreak in January. Bright’s 89 page whistleblower complaint exposes Trump’s corruption and cronyism in his effort to make a potentially harmful drug (hydroxychloroquine) widely available to Americans before it was adequately tested and helping his buddies make money in the process.

Anyone who listens or reads reality based information sources know what works to flatten the curve and tame a pandemic. The way to get the economy reopened in a way that will help the economy recover best is to follow the guidelines Trump’s own administration has written up. The reopening of America should take place using a science-based protocol.

Here is the simple version of the playbook to reopen effectively:

  • 14 day period of decline in cases and deaths
  • Testing is exponentially ramped up
  • Contact tracing is in place
  • Isolation and quarantine of new cases can be managed
  • Face masks in public places and continued social distancing by limiting numbers of people in closed spaces and keeping distance between people

Because Trump fails to lead and fails to use the DPA to surge the things we need to be able to have effective testing (reagents, swabs and other products), we have a messy 50 state strategy that pits states against each other. Each state is supposed to figure out their own way forward. The result for your state will depend on your governor’s faith in science or in Trump.

Many states, especially Republican states, are not following the protocol Trump’s own administration has published. They are not staying shut down until there are two weeks of downward trajectory of new cases. Testing is not up to speed in most states and the contract tracing and isolation is not being ramped up fast enough. Many states are reopening too early even though some are trying to do it incrementally and carefully.

Think about the pandemic as a beast. This beast is super clever at getting into people. The goal of the beast is to infect as many people as it can and the way it accomplishes its mission is by subtly slipping into our bodies, person to person. So, when people get together, if even only one person has the virus, he or she transmits this thing to a bunch of other people (about 2.2 others) and that continues exponentially. The deaths populate about 3 weeks later. Especially older people. Although some younger people die from this disease too.

We KNOW for a fact that if states reopen too soon many more Americans will die. Many of those people who die will be older people- 60 and older. Their lives will be cut short an estimated 10 to 12 years. This virus is a terrible way to die too- alone, unable to breathe, hooked up to a ventilator. Anywhere the virus can get in and infect people in close quarters, groups, and clusters, the beast has a field day: meat packing plants (ordered to stay open by Trump using the DPA), beaches (Laguna and Orange County anti-lock down rallies prompted those early openings), standing in line in Wisconsin to vote because the courts forced them to, beauty shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors (Texas and Georgia) retirement homes (they are petri dishes for the virus), weddings, funerals, and other gatherings where people are close together.

Since my husband is a doctor on the staff of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, we can listen to grand rounds where we have heard the most up to date information on the virus and how it is different from the flu and from prior coronaviruses as well as how the possible treatments are coming along.

There are some strange, weird things about this virus. It can cause blood clots that are so big they jam up the renal dialysis machinery. It can cause some people to have toes that turn purple “Covid toes” which may be happening because of the strange clotting that is one hallmark of this virus. Some people who feel fine are silently conveying the virus to others. Some people (even young people) feel fine but then suddenly have a stroke- which may also be related to the strange blood clotting this virus can trigger. This virus is incredibly easy to transmit, is airborne and lingers in the air for about 30 minutes. Remdesivir only helps some people recover a little faster and we do not know if it prevents death (morbidity) yet. It is in the early stages of study.

The ultra-conservatives, Trump, the GOP, and some corporate interests are engaging in happy talk and overly optimistic thinking as well as denial.  That thinking aligns with Trump’s typical thinking: overly optimistic, unrealistic, alternate reality view of the world. This is not a new playbook for this guy.  For Trump, unrealistic ideas and “whoppers” are his “go to” ideas. Ever the salesman, pushing the next great Trump thing- Trump university, Trump hotel, Trump wine, Trump steak, we are now getting the great Trump cure for the pandemic- Lysol, injected disinfectants, targeted microwaves, and the great reopening of the country because the pandemic might magically disappear and not come back in the fall. (Nope. No chance that it will disappear). Trump pushes this thinking despite what we know from past pandemics and from what we are being told by epidemiologists who study pandemics for a living.

Pandemics traditionally do come back in colder weather. They lie in wait for people to congregate. When people get together the beast will feast. And people will be getting together more real soon because 31 states are opening up too early or responding to pressure by relaxing the recommendations (Republican Mike De Wine of Ohio is saying you don’t need to wear a face mask in public places if you don’t want to- a concession to the Republican push against mitigation).

Estimates of cases and deaths have been revised upwards because so many states are reopening without following the full protocol.

The body count as of today, May 5th, is

  • 70,713 Americans dead.
  • 2 million Americans infected.
  • The curve is flattening in NY, but other parts of the country are rising.
  • It is expected that our death toll will double.
  • The new estimates are 134,000 dead Americans by early August.
  • 3,000 daily deaths by June.
  • And a huge spike in cases: 200,000 new cases DAILY by June is anticipated.

When the cases rise, the death rate spikes right along with it and it will keep doing that until we either have a vaccine (don’t count on that coming very soon and even if we get one it could be dangerous until it has the kinks worked out), or we have testing, tracing and quarantining in place. Those are the weapons we need to fight this beast right away.

Other countries that do have testing and tracking and isolating in place like Germany, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, and New Zealand are not seeing rising numbers the way our country is. They are doing better than we are.

Why? Why are we doing so badly?

The reason is that our president and ultra-conservatives are all in on reopening and they are igniting Trump supporters to rally against mitigation and Fox News is on board to help them with their campaign. Conservatives are fearful of the decrease in their wealth resulting from continued lock down and Trump believes his re-election depends on either having an economy that is recovering or convincing enough Americans that we are doing fine even if we are not.

Callused right-wing thinking appears to be something along these lines: “Look, decrepit old people are going to die anyhow so if the virus kills a lot of them sooner rather than later, no big deal. And if people in prisons die, so be it. Yeah, and meat packing plants too, full of these low wage workers- who cares about them. So what if they get sick or die too. Big deal. Native Americans? So what if they are decimated. Just ignore the body bags in the corner and press on to get this herd immunity thing  faster by letting more people get sick even if many die. Doesn’t matter to me as long as I am safe, and my family is safe. The rest of you can go to hell.”

This may not be what Republicans say out loud. Out loud they are going to say everything is going great. Pretending all is well when it is not will be their playbook. They will try to convince as many Americans as they can into having rallies to reopen and get back to normal. They think they are preventing greater economic damage this way, but they are wrong. Consumers know better. They are not going to venture back out unless they feel safe. 78 percent (of Americans) would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant. People in states with looser restrictions report similar levels of discomfort as those in states with stricter rules.

Reopening should be about management, logistics and strategy working hand in hand with science and fact-based evidence. But Trump is incapable of that. Trump does PR and the only thing he is capable of managing is the message.

As for the camouflage wearing, gun toting protesters who want their way on everything and demand a reopening across America because THEY don’t believe coronavirus is so bad and THEY are not sick and THEY are not dying from Covid… just wait, you guys.  This disease is real. You are in denial thanks to your  president who could not care less if you die so long as he gets re-elected.