Donald Trump tried to claim that he was going to decide when the country would reopen. Then, after everyone pointed out that he legally and pragmatically does not have that ability, he insisted he would “allow” the governors to decide. Some Republican governors have sensibly decided to wait. Some Republican governors are reopening their states right now, in the middle of a pandemic that isn’t one bit more under control than it was a week or a month ago.
This is pure madness. Even before these reopenings have played out long enough to start impacting the death toll, we’re already seeing that it’s not falling. In fact the NBC chart suggests that the U.S. death toll has been on a subtle upward trend for the past week. Yes, each state has its own individual trend – but none of it’s good. There is absolutely no justification for easing the lockdowns, beyond saying “screw it, we’re bored now, who cares how many people die.”
This is all dire enough that the Republican Governor of Mississippi, who was planning to reopen his state, is now looking at the reaccelerating death toll and thinking twice. Worse, anecdotal viral videos from around the nation keep showing that social distancing is not being properly followed. Not nearly enough people are covering their faces. And because Trump has refused to do anything to ramp up testing, we still don’t know enough about who should be staying home.
Ron Klain, who led the successful Ebola response for the Obama administration, tweeted this: “I know we want to believe it is behind us; I know we want to believe it is over (or nearly so). But sadly, it isn’t. I said two months ago that the question would be whether the virus was more patient than people. I am afraid we are proving that out, right now.”
Beyond applying political pressure, there’s very little we can do to prevent certain red states from prematurely reopening. Beyond discussing it with those around us, there’s not much we can do to keep people from foolishly going out and risking their lives. All we can do is stay home and protect ourselves. The death tolls in these states will spike in a week or two, and we’ll do what we can to prevent these governors from covering up those death tolls. Then those states will presumably have to shut down again.
Until then, all we can do is watch the madness play out, while trying to protect ourselves and our loved ones in the process. We know where this is heading. Unless a vaccine falls out of the sky much sooner than expected, which it almost certainly won’t, this crisis is just getting started. This fantasy that it’s over is only going to prolong it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report