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The United States, which already has most COVID-19 pandemic infections, seems strangely determined to worsen the situation. With record-breaking new infections, a major retailer is given basic safeguards before reversing his decision, while the Georgia governor tries to prevent all local authorities from taking measures to protect their citizens. This is despite the fact that the head of the United States Disease Control Centers (CDC) said, "If we could get everyone to wear a mask now, I really think we'll do it in the next four, six, eight weeks. " Epidemic under control. "
And it's not just masks. Health professionals are almost in agreement that school reopening should only be associated with a low infection rate in the community, redesigned classrooms to allow greater social distance, and distance learning should be undertaken if necessary. However, the Trump administration threatens to hold back funding from schools that are not fully open to personal education. In the meantime, the government is trying to downplay the value of something – more tests – that could help us understand the progression of the virus in our population.
What on earth is going on?
This weekend provided some explanations for how the US went so badly. One of these was a detailed account of how important decisions were made as the US neared its initial peak in infections. The second is an interview with President Trump himself, who lives in a world full of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Problems at the top
At the weekend, President Trump sat down for an in-depth interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace. The interview raised the pandemic several times and provides insight into Trump's ideas about what's going on. And it is revealing in that it showed that he has a lot of ideas but very few have a foundation in reality – and the interview shows some of the reasons for the problems.
One of the most noticeable cases came when Wallace Trump challenged the United States to be one of the worst countries due to its COVID-19 mortality rate. Trump replied by getting his spokesman Kayleigh McEnany to hand Wallace a graphic that allegedly denies this fact. However, the graph only showed data from a handful of countries, with the US looking better than some but worse than others. This suggests that part of the problem is that Trump is not getting the full picture of his advisors and is not addressing the problem enough to recognize that the picture he has received is incomplete.
Trump's tendency to invent things to make yourself look good also started. In a few sentences, he went from "I think we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world" to the claim that the graph showed that we had "death rate at number one mortality rates", although the graph shows some countries with better ones Shows mortality rates.
Trump's easy understanding of the problems also showed when Wallace asked about the huge increase in SARS-CoV-2 infections that was uncovered by testing. Here, Trump repeated a topic he has come back to since the cases have increased: it's all because of our testing capacity. "If we didn't test, you couldn't show this table," he said to Wallace once. "If we tested half as much, those numbers would have dropped."
However, as Tim Lee of Ars described, there is one way to track how much increased testing affects the total number of cases identified: the percentage of tests that give a positive result. And this measure shows that growth in new cases in the United States is driven by the spread of the virus rather than more advanced testing. Trump should know that; The fact that he repeatedly says that he does not indicate that Briefers have not updated him or that he is unable to process information.
Conspiratorial thinking and politics
But something else seems to be going on when Wallace compared the relatively small number of cases in Europe. "Is it possible that they don't have the virus as bad as we do?" Wallace asked. Trump rejects this with a conspiracy theory: "It is possible that they will not test, it is possible."
This type of conspiracy theorization is also part of Trump's response to US health policy. California has reintroduced restrictions on its citizens in response to the resurgence where it is now experiencing. But since Trump doesn't seem to believe there's a resurgence, he suspects it's a conspiracy against him. "There is no reason for California to do what they do except on November 3rd (election day)," he said to Wallace. He later said, "Democrats want to keep it closed as long as possible because they think that's good for elections. But I think the economy is going very well."
And after Trump has constructed an alternative reality in which the number of infections does not grow quickly, he sets the policy accordingly. This includes that schools have to be fully reopened for personal lessons in autumn or there is a risk of federal funding being cut. (To his honor, Wallace points out that this will hit the poorest communities hardest.)
However, there are some nonsensical political decisions that don't fit into any category. Wallace also put forward the CDC director's argument that recent evidence indicates that the use of masks across the population would allow us to control the pandemic in a few months or less. But Trump states that he is not ready to accept expert opinions, let alone put a basic policy on it. He says, "I want people to have some freedom, and I don't believe in it. No, and I don't agree with the statement that if everyone wears a mask, everything disappears."
The general lack of impact on reality also appears to affect other policy choices that were not made in the interview. On Saturday, the Washington Post announced that the government is trying to prevent Congress from including pandemic funds in its next aid bill. Part of the funds in question would go to the CDC – those whose advice Trump rejects. The rest would be for testing and contact tracking, making Trump responsible for making the pandemic look worse than he thinks. So it's clear that Trump's beliefs, however he created them, affect politics.
Not much help
Also on Saturday, the New York Times published a thoroughly researched story that describes how the government adopted a standard stance to ignore the pandemic as the cases neared their first climax. The report suggests that Trump not only had an opinion on matters that were not based on reality, but that his government's response was largely determined by a small group of senior White House executives, all but one of whom were not medical Had expertise (of course the group included Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks).
Perhaps due to some members' commitment to a small federal government, the group focused on shifting responsibilities to states. This is despite some problems with this approach that became apparent early on – such as the signs that competition between states for resources such as test kits and protective equipment ultimately increased their prices. There are also some issues, such as tracing contacts, that cannot be resolved by individual states because US citizens easily cross state borders.
The other thing that became clear was that with only one public health expert who was consistently involved, the group did not have a good perspective on what was happening to the pandemic. This expert, Dr. Deborah Birx told the group that the modeling in mid-April showed that the United States was nearing a peak. This turned out to be true. The climax and decline, however, were largely driven by New York and the nearby states, which introduced strict rules for social distancing and isolation. According to the Times, the models on which Birx was based assumed that all states would adopt a New York approach – a limitation that others did not fully register in the administration.
The belief that no further restrictions were needed for the US to reduce the cases to a manageable level was in line with President Trump's belief that it was vital for the economy to restart as soon as possible. As a result, he urged the states to reopen before the coat of arms was reached in some cases. Nobody in the administration seems to have reassessed the approach, although in the United States, unlike European countries where socially distancing rules were followed, cases remained on a relatively high plateau. It turned out that the virus was established in the broader US population and was the prerequisite for its current growth.
A public health disaster of this magnitude does not happen because of a single personality. Obviously, many Trump administration officials have failed the US by allowing their own ideology to make decisions that violate established public health practices. But they also failed to allow the president not only to maintain false beliefs, but to set guidelines based on them.
As for Trump, Wallace was actually underestimated when he suggested, "People say you talk about the world the way you want to see it instead of following science." The interview makes it clear that Trump is unlikely to be able to identify a science that runs counter to the world as he wishes, let alone follow it.