“We mustn’t allow ourselves for one second to be lulled into a false sense of security,” Merkel cautioned Monday, even as the public began to taste a bit of freedom. “We mustn’t forget that we’re still at the beginning of this pandemic.”
As of Tuesday evening, data from Johns Hopkins University showed Germany had just under 148,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,086 deaths. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in France was comparable if a tad higher (159,299), yet France had recorded more than four times as many deaths at 20,796 as its neighbor to the north. Germany and France currently rank fifth and fourth in the world respectively in terms of confirmed cases, with Italy and Spain claiming the third and second spots, and the U.S. eclipsing every other nation with 824,147 cases and more than 45,000 deaths.
Yet Donald Trump, unlike Merkel, is hitting no cautionary notes as he and his conservative allies agitate to reopen the country. Instead, it’s just full steam ahead and we’ll survey the collateral damage later.
“I’m going to make our country bigger and better and stronger. And we have to get started,” Trump said at his Tuesday coronavirus briefing, still clinging to the fantasy of running for reelection on a robust economy. Asked about predictions that an even more deadly second wave of the outbreak could resurface in the fall, Trump offered optimism but zero specifics: “I really believe we will be able to put out the fires. It’s like fires. And we’ve learned a lot.”
Trump, a navel-gazing narcissist and consummate con man, has been the most unimaginably ill-equipped leader possible to confront a global pandemic. His entire response to the highly infectious and rapidly spreading disease has been chaotic, scientifically ignorant, and incoherent.
Trump’s approach stands in marked contrast to the elaborate and systematic scheme of testing and tracing that Germany implemented, resulting in their singularly low death rate due to the virus. Germany’s well-established pharmaceutical industry started stockpiling testing resources early in 2020, well ahead of the country’s first case in February, according to Vox. Meanwhile, the Trump administration pissed away a solid month-plus in preparation time even after the U.S.’ first cases emerged in late January. Once Trump and Co. realized testing was an issue, they started making hollow testing promises in early March, none of which came to fruition.
But Germany’s early preparation positioned their health professionals to very quickly implement widespread testing that located both where the virus was spreading and how fast. Consequently, the country has one of the world’s highest per capita testing rates, administering nearly 21,000 tests per million people versus the U.S. conducting some 13,000 tests for every million people. In addition, Germany’s disease tracking and isolation protocols have been very systematic. Rather than simply urging the public to stay at home and treat themselves until the disease reaches fever pitch, Germany has local “corona taxis” that shuttle physicians around to check in on patients who have been sick for five to six days, according to The New York Times.
All of this has put Germany in position to slowly ease some of its social distancing restrictions without risking a rampant and uncontainable flare up. The U.S., however, is largely still at the mercy of the novel coronavirus. Without the testing capacity to establish both the location and prevalence of the disease, social distancing measures remain America’s best defense against rapidly spreading outbreaks.
But none of that concerns Trump. Though testing just might prove to be his last stand, he’s not worried about the death and destruction that will likely accompany a hasty reopening. Trump just wants to claim he’s fighting for opening businesses and then blame the governors for either ruining his economy by not reopening soon enough, or conversely, fostering outbreaks by easing restrictions too soon. The outcomes don’t actually matter to Trump so long as he can blame someone else for any failures, no matter how grave they are.