As Trump Campaigns on False COVID Optimism, A New Peak Looms

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President Donald Trump continued to spout his rosy narrative of a nation on the mend at a campaign event in Florida on Friday, which was also the second day in a row that new infections in the United States surpassed 64,000 for the first time since July. “The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We are rounding the turn,” Trump told rally-goers. “Don’t listen to the cynics and angry partisans and pessimists.” Playing down the pandemic in an attempt to salvage his chances for reelection—a prospect upended by Trump’s bungling of the public health crisis that has killed more than 218,000 Americans—has taken on new urgency inside the Trump campaign in recent days. After contracting COVID-19, the president has reemerged with more misinformation and disregard for science than ever, flouting safety precautions and undercutting infectious disease experts to serve his political aims. “I don’t know that Donald Trump can see past the current moment,” former task force aide Olivia Troye told the Associated Press.

Trump’s coronavirus approach has left a dearth in federal leadership on COVID-19, an “unprecedented and dangerous” response decried in an open letter signed by more than 1,000 current and former officers of a disease-fighting program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The letter, first posted to Medium in May, was republished Friday in the Epidemiology Monitor, a newsletter for epidemiologists, as a call for “our nation’s leaders to allow CDC to resume its indispensable role.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, two former CDC directors are among the signatories who were writing to “express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency” throughout the pandemic, a time when the CDC would typically play a leading role—had it not been sidelined by the White House, which has reportedly interfered with official health guidance as part of their sweeping attempt to control messaging around the crisis. That meddling has created a crisis of its own for the agency. “We’ve seen massive spinning or even rewriting of CDC recommendations,” said Dr. Douglas Hamilton, who retired from the CDC earlier this year; he told the Journal that he signed out of concern for upholding the CDC’s scientific credibility.

The calls for vigilance come as a new peak nears, with the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassing 8 million on Friday. Infections are rising almost everywhere nationwide, the Washington Post notes, with 44 states and the District of Columbia reporting higher numbers than in mid-September and, in some cases, than ever before. On Friday, at least ten states reported their highest daily case count since the pandemic began, per CNN—including Michigan and Wisconsin, where Trump is set to hold rallies on Saturday.

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