Trump: What’s up, Doc?

A Facebook friend likened the President to Bugs Bunny, chomping on his carrot and making fun of his enemies. And this week it certainly seems that way as the page flips from "everybody’s–an-epidemiology expert" to "we are now all constitutional scholars."

On April 14 Trump said he was the “absolute authority” on when to relax the shutdown and two days later, based on fact, he noted that the virus seemed to have peaked, circumstances were different in different places of the country, and it was up to the governors of each state to determine mitigation strategies appropriate for their states following some national guidelines. 

The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak. And they largely reinforce plans already in the works by governors, who have primary responsibility for public health in their states. 

"You’re going to call your own shots," Trump told the governors Thursday afternoon in a conference call, according to an audio recording obtained by the Associated Press. "We’re going to be standing alongside of you."

Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phase gradual reopening of businesses and schools.

I know it won’t surprise you to know that people like New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo who pegged the earlier statement as dictatorial now accuse Trump of passing the buck. Actually, it’s a bit late for civics lessons, but we still live in a federal republic, a form of government best suited to such a vast country with disparate needs and circumstances. 

Some governors responded rather quickly. A number of large beaches in Florida were reopened by Governor Ron DeSantis (Not only does this restore a measure of freedom for locked in Floridians, but as well seems likely to have health benefits.  DHS Biodefense Lab finds in preliminary tests that “sunlight kills the virus quickly” and COVID-19 does not survive long under high temperatures or high humidity.) 

Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to begin opening up Texas

The Pennsylvania State Senate on Wednesday sent a bill that would partially lift the lockdown on most of the state’s businesses to Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) desk.

The less pragmatic governors of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan (the latter headed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who bears a striking resemblance to Richard III and whose nonsensical bans and edicts brought her a lot of media attention but I think not the kind she was aiming for) are facing rebellions of citizens sick of their overreaching .

The most persuasive arguments I can find for opening up the country are those of Jeffrey A. Tucker. I urge you to read it all. He notes:

The lockdowns were presented to us under the need to “flatten the curve” for hospital capacity, but there isn’t one curve and we didn’t have enough information even to say where one city was on any curve. There were some days of difficulty in hot spots but many hospitals in the country, due to the order that they not do elective surgeries, started furloughing workers. The reality of many empty hospitals in the middle of a pandemic was too much to process. So we spent the next two weeks searching for new justifications to keep the lockdown in place. Those started to sound affected and even fraudulent very quickly. 

What’s important about the three-phase process that Trump enumerated with no set time timetable is that it flips the burden of proof. We have suddenly gone from a world in which governors have presumed that cracking down, forbidding, suppressing, denouncing, shutting down, arresting, and jailing are presumed to be good medicine, to a world in which we treat a virus as a disease to mitigate and the suppressors have to justify their actions else face the wrath of the tens of millions of victims. In many ways, it was a brilliant move. In short, the hounds have been called off. Let us not underestimate what this could mean. 

Another important point about the three-phase plan: it is focused on the facts of the case. Not model-based predictions. Not someone’s ideology. Not political posturing. Not the fallacy of authority. The opening is based on the on-the-ground realities. The facts have never justified the suppression. Nor do they justify continued suppression for one hour more. The facts will set us free. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean an end to political posturing. The virus of identity politics still has no vaccine .The most insidious is the unity destroying claim by Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the disparate impact of the virus by race and ethnicity is part of some plan or deliberate negligence. The very brilliant Daniel Greenfield demolishes that argument. 

He lists the factors that we know disparately affect the coronavirus transmission and mortality figures:

  • Age. The elderly are most affected. He observes: ”Bel Air has the fourth highest average age in Los Angeles. So it’s not surprising that it is among the places hardest hit by the coronavirus.”
  • Intergenerational households, more common in Asian and African-American households than in white ones. “A more traditional way of life” which he notes is also more common among Orthodox Jews and some Italian-Americans than the “wealthy white elites who are Warren and AOC’S biggest backers.”

Indeed, contrary to these promoters of identity politics, their own fellow Democrats and backers’ racism has a great deal to do with the larger number of blacks sickened by the virus:

"Something that is scaring me, when I read the comments and some of the reactions, my people, black people, please, please understand that coronavirus is... you can get it," Idris Elba had posted on social media after coming down with the virus. "There are so many stupid, ridiculous conspiracy theories about black people not being able to get it... That is the quickest way to get more black people killed." 

Elba was addressing the widespread memes on social media which claimed that black people were immune because of melanin. Memes falsely claimed that there were no coronavirus cases in Africa. Media editorials by African-American writers urged black people not to believe that they were immune. 

The real racism was an internal belief in racial superiority spread by hate groups like the Nation of Islam. 

“The good news is, we should not be overly anxious about an attack or about a virus, but what we should be anxious about is our slowness to disconnect ourselves from a nation that is in the crosshairs of the Lord of the worlds," Farrakhan's spokeswoman, Minister Ava Muhammad of the NOI, had claimed. 

Democrats, including Barack Obama and Rep. Jim Clyburn, a close Biden ally and the third-ranking House Democrat, who is in charge of coronavirus stimulus oversight, have met with the hate group leader. 

In Milwaukee, ProPublica, a left-wing site, documented a higher black death rate even as it noted the, “pushback among those who recalled other painful government restrictions -- including segregation and mass incarceration -- on where black people could walk and gather." 

This is an attempt at racializing cultural differences and then blaming racism. [snip]

Instead of healing the nation, Warren, Harris, Booker, Cortez, and other Democrats divide it even more. 

At a time when the country should be coming together, their only thought is of how to tear it apart for their political profit, racializing the virus and then blaming it on racism, instead of on Communist China, which lied about the pandemic, may have created it, and then cornered the market on protective gear. [/quote]

About 22 million Americans are now out of work. Hospitals are also suffering great losses and some may shutter, a serious loss not only to the staffs, but also in particular to those living in affected rural areas who need them. The hospitals were ordered to handle only emergency surgeries to make room for a feared tsunami of coronavirus patients that never appeared. Students are missing months of schooling. On the other hand, various drug treatments seem to be proving efficacious, as have other techniques (for example having sufferers lie face down and legs elevated instead of putting them on ventilators). In any event the number of hospitalizations -- the reason for the national shutdown -- never reached the modeled hospitalization numbers and mortality figures even in the worst-hit areas remain not particularly large. In sum, there is every reason to open up most of the country, monitoring through increased (and increasingly available) testing, and studying more accurate records of hospitalizations. We can return to more stringent distancing rules in areas where we need to if warranted by fact. Pragmatic solutions which balance costs (psychological, physical, and economic) against theoretical models are now called for. If this causes a second wave, we are far more prepared and experienced in treating it than we were on March 13, just weeks ago.

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