In Depth

US still ‘knee-deep’ in first Covid wave - so does Donald Trump have a plan?

New survey suggests growing number of voters disapprove of president’s handling of coronavirus outbreak

The US is still “knee-deep” in its first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s leading medical expert has warned.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the latest increases in confirmed infections, which have doubled in just over a week, “would not be considered a wave” but a “surge”.

“It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline… that really never got down to where we wanted to go,” said Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a Facebook and Twitter livestream on Monday.

What’s the situation in the US?

The surge in coronavirus cases “has led to a shortage of hospital beds and threatens to set the economy back even further”, says CNN. And health officials fear that “the crisis could get even worse, after images of packed beaches emerged over the Fourth of July holiday weekend”.

“We are in free fall,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the broadcaster. “You see the footage of what happened this past weekend. And people are either naive to the influence of their actions, or they’re simply resigned to ignore it.”

Dr Francis Collins, the National Institutes of Health director, tried to strike a more positive note as he joined Fauci on Monday’s livestream.

Collins said the Americans should “keep your optimism, keep your hope, and do the right thing” by wearing masks, regularly washing their hands and avoiding busy indoor spaces.

“All of those simple and straightforward things that I know you’re tired of. But the virus is still out there and needs all of us to keep this from getting any worse,” Collins said.

The plea came as the Covid death toll in the US passed 130,000, with the number of infections nearing three million. 

“Let’s remember there are 300 million people in this country who remain susceptible and have been uninfected so far, and this virus is far from running out of people to infect,” Dr Walensky told CNN. “Until we change our behaviour to prevent these infections, the infections are going to continue to soar.”

Does Donald Trump have a plan?

Fauci warned last week that the US was not “in total control” of the coronavirus outbreak and that new cases could reach more than 100,000 a day, says Business Insider.

But Trump’s plan appears to focus on downplaying the severity of the crisis and prioritising economic reopening instead.

In a speech at the White House on Saturday, the president claimed that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless” and ruled out a national mask-wearing mandate, reports The Guardian. The decision comes despite widespread criticism of Trump’s refusal to wear a mask in public.

Steve Adler, the Democratic mayor of the Texas city of Austin, described Trump’s Covid comments as “incredibly disruptive”.

“The messaging coming from the president of the United States is dangerous,” Adler told reporters. “One of the biggest challenges we have is the messaging coming out of Washington that would suggest that masks don’t work or it’s not necessary, or that the virus is going away on its own.”

A recent survey by Hart Research has found that a majority of voters also “reject Trump’s approach”.

The poll of 1,000 people, conducted in the week to 28 June, indicates that most “are not willing to trade an economic rebound for people’s health”, says pressure group Protect Our Care, which commissioned the survey.

A total of 65% of respondents said that even if the number of unemployed were to drop to 8% or 9% by election day, Trump’s efforts to reopen the economy would not have been worth it if the price was that deaths reached 200,000.

Overall, 60% disapproved of how Trump has handled the coronavirus, and 57% blamed the president for the deaths associated with the outbreak.

Protect Our Care’s Coronavirus War Room director Zac Petkanas said: “The bad news for the White House is that our new polling shows that any positive feelings voters may have about the economy are overshadowed by their toxic feelings about Trump’s disastrous response to the coronavirus.

“The bottom line is that the economy is not the main standard by which key voters are judging Trump. The role he’s playing in the rising death toll is.”

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