I’m frequently critical of President Trump and it’s usually for good reason. However, I try to be objective and give the president credit when he does the right thing. That was the case yesterday when he ordered an extension of the federal call for social distancing to April 30.
About this time last week, President Trump was wondering whether the cure was worse than the disease and speculating that the country could be back to normal by Easter. At the time, I advised the president to listen to his doctors. Apparently he did.
By yesterday, Mr. Trump seemed to be taking the crisis more seriously. Speaking to reporters at the daily Coronavirus press briefing, the president said he would extend the federal social distancing guidelines to the end of April. The guidelines, originally set for two weeks, were due to expire on Monday.
As he spoke to reporters, Trump seemed like a different person from the president who wanted to fill churches for Easter only a few days before.
President Trump told reporters, “The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks, so I’ll say it again: the peak, the highest point of death rates, remember this, is likely to hit in two weeks.” Two weeks from yesterday would be Easter Sunday.
So far, the US has reported 2,582 Coronavirus deaths per tracking site, Worldometer.com. There were 362 new deaths reported on Sunday, March 29, which was down from 525 on Saturday. The site cautions that Sunday’s data may be incomplete due to delayed reporting from New York. Coronavirus deaths have been doubling every 2-3 days.
“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” the president continued. “That would be the greatest loss of all. Therefore, the next two weeks, and during this period it’s very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines.”
“The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,” the president told the country.
The credit for Trump’s turnaround almost certainly goes to Drs. Fauci and Birx. The two medical experts are frequent fixtures are the press conferences and have won the respect and admiration of the country.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, Dr. Fauci said, “Looking at what we’re seeing now, you know, I would say between 100 and 200,000 (deaths)” from Coronavirus in the US. Fauci said that the US would have millions of COVID-19 cases.
“Whenever the models come in, they give a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario,” Fauci explained. “Generally, the reality is somewhere in the middle. I’ve never seen a model of the diseases that I’ve dealt with where the worst case actually came out. They always overshoot.”
The worst-case scenario presented by the models would be millions of deaths. At the press conference, Dr. Birx said that models predicted “1.6 and 2.2 million fatalities if we didn’t mitigate.” Fauci called that worst-case scenario “not impossible, but very, very unlikely.”
Presenting bad news with good, the president also veered off-script to accuse New York health authorities of something “worse than hoarding.”
“I want the people in New York to check Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, that when a hospital that’s getting 10,000 masks goes to 300,000 masks during the same period, and that’s a rapid period, I would like them to check that because I hear stories like that all the time,” Trump said. “We’re delivering millions and millions of different products, and all we do is hear, ‘Can you get some more?””
Actor Lou Diamond Phillips responded to the charge on Twitter, pointing out that 1,000 nurses changing their masks between treating 30 patients per day would use 300,000 masks over 10 days. The dramatic increase in the usage of medical products is tied directly to the dramatic increase of infectious patients.
At the end of the day, however, President Trump stepped up and made a very difficult decision. Keeping the economy in hibernation for another month as we approach a presidential election was not an easy thing to do, but, when the evidence of the spreading outbreak was considered, there was really no choice at all. When given a choice between a recession or millions of dead Americans plus a recession, the president acted wisely and against the wishes of many in his base. He deserves credit for that.