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A tragedy in Washington

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Our graphics department itself launched a new color – a deep purplish red – on the New York Times online coronavirus case map to capture record rates of infection.

Yet in the face of this fully anticipated crisis, Washington is doing very little. After so many months of this tragedy, there is still no coordinated federal response to the virus.

“The general strategy is abdication,” said Angela Rasmussen, an affiliate virologist at Georgetown University, who says there is a possibility that 300,000 more Americans could die from the virus before the day of the inauguration on the 20th. January. There are going to be a lot of unnecessary deaths, a lot of unnecessary cases of Covid that didn’t need to happen.

There is no sign of a change in strategy on the part of the current administration.

President Trump is focusing more on litigation of a settled election than on fighting the virus. Since polling day, he has hosted a public event – an update on his administration’s efforts to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus. In addition to going to his golf course, the president remained locked inside the White House.

At the same time, the government he is leading has sent out mixed messages.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans avoid traveling and meeting with loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday. And later today, the White House coronavirus task force held its first press conference in months, urging Americans to remain vigilant while waiting for a vaccine. But on Wednesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, called some local guidelines restricting Thanksgiving gatherings “Orwellian.” (States that have imposed fewer virus containment measures now have the worst outbreaks, according to a New York Times analysis.)

And Congress left town again this week without any kind of economic relief deal. Politico reported that Senate Republicans did not even discuss a stimulus package during their weekly lunch.

The lack of federal coordination has left state and local governments to pursue a patchwork of measures, while public health officials face continued skepticism from some Americans who still doubt the severity of the virus – some even from their beds of ‘hospital.

Europe offers an alternative view: after several weeks of lockdown, new cases seem to be slowing down in Germany and France. (Both countries have kept schools open.)

A number of public health experts have said another round of temporary shutdowns would be the only way to slow the spread of the virus in the United States as well. Without economic help from Congress, however, new restrictions could put millions of Americans and small businesses in even greater financial peril.

None of this should come as a surprise. Throughout the summer and fall, experts repeatedly warned that the colder months would lead to worsening conditions as people were forced to return. “Winter is coming,” they practically cried.

Of course, change is also happening in Washington. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s transition team is making plans to fight the virus. But the opening day is almost nine weeks away.

People really have to manage their expectations about it because without a doubt it has a huge challenge, ”Ms Rasmussen said of Mr Biden. “There will be things he can do on day one, but they won’t necessarily have an immediate impact.”

Mr Biden pledged an aggressive national approach that includes promoting mask warrants, providing economic aid to local governments, helping manage vaccine distribution, expanding testing and rebuilding support for public health agencies. “There is a real desire for a true partnership between the states and the federal government,” Biden said Thursday after meeting with a bipartisan group of governors.

But his ability to plan for those steps is already hampered by the refusal of a person appointed by the Trump administration to sign the documents that would allow Mr. Biden’s transition team to access funds, equipment and government data.

Once Mr. Biden is in office, his effectiveness will largely depend on how he can relate to Republican governors and a tightly divided Senate – a task he has already recognized as a challenge.

The sad reality is that the rising death toll could help Mr Biden’s efforts, Ms Rasmussen said. These grim numbers could finally change attitudes towards the virus, prompting more Americans to adopt measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“I like to think that most people probably don’t want Americans to die en masse, or have seen how it affected their own families,” she said. “It’s very dark and horrible, but if anything good can come of it, maybe when Biden is sworn in, people are more willing to take the pandemic seriously.”

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At the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, it became clear that the banal partisan suspicion of Democrats expressed by Republican voters and politicians had turned into a harsher state: Obamacare wasn’t just bad. , he was going to cause death signs; Mr. Obama wasn’t just ill-advised in wanting a more generous welfare state, he was secretly shaking “Obama phones” to the poor who didn’t deserve it.

In response, defenders of the 44th President coined the term Obama Disturbance Syndrome – which at times seemed a bit of an exaggeration until poll after poll showed many Republicans believed in many conspiracies on the first black president.

Figures like Tucker Carlson on the political right have since counterattacked by accusing Democrats of Trump’s inconvenience syndrome, a condition best explained by this Wall Street Journal view: is – about Mr. Trump and dismissing anything he did that could be good for the country. Symptoms apparently also include “the president’s obsession with the president’s hair and his comparison to Mao.”

While four years of reporting have shown that many of the pernicious and salacious acts of which Mr. Trump has been accused are indeed true, it is also true that he has elicited such disdain from the left that opposition to him can sometimes be reactionary and not entirely. based in fact.

On Wednesday, Times Opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof took stock of the damage caused by this dynamic on the issue of school reopening in Blue Cities and states across the country.

“Some things are true even though President Trump says them,” he wrote. “Trump has been calling for schools to reopen for months, and on this point he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and distance learning is proving to be a disaster for many low-income children.

– Talmon Joseph Smith

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