COVID-19: the United States, a ship without a captain for the second wave

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Jean-François Bélanger (access the author's page)

Two armchairs on a stage four meters away in front of a giant screen where the 14 other participants in this virtual conference appear. The Democrats had taken care of everything. Much like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s election campaign, their COVID-19 task force presentation was a perfect response to physical distancing measures.

On the same day that the president-elect began the transition period by announcing to make the fight against the pandemic his top priority, the United States crossed the symbolic mark of 10 million cases. The country remains by far the most affected in the world with more than 242,000 deaths. A figure that is increasing at the rate of 1,000 new deaths every day.

The second wave here reaches proportions out of all proportion to that of spring. The country recorded on November 11 more than 144,000 new cases in a single day, nearly four times more than the worst day of the first wave last April. And the trend is on the rise in 46 states.

If the committee of experts set up by Joe Biden and the program announced by the Democrats are welcomed by the American scientific community, one truth remains: the next president will not take office before January 20 after a transition which promises to be stormy.

Until then, the Trump administration remains responsible for leading the US ship through the turbulent waters of the second wave of the COVID-19 epidemic. However, many today wonder if there is a captain at the helm of the ship.

Donald Trump has not appeared in public for a week, except for a brief appearance at Remembrance Day ceremonies. And even before the election, when he made more appearances, the president did not show a great interest in the fight against the pandemic.

Anthony Fauci speaks from behind a lectern.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Photo: Associated Press / Evan Vucci

Last month, Dr.Anthony Fauci, the foremost American epidemiologist and member of the coronavirus panel, revealed that the president had not attended a meeting of the House task force in months. -White on COVID-19.

In fact, Dr Fauci even went so far as to say that he was not surprised the president had caught the disease given his flippant demeanor. Since the party he gave in September to celebrate the appointment to the Supreme Court of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, at least 20 of Donald Trump's relatives, White House employees, guests and journalists were contaminated.

The epidemiologist had multiplied the warnings against this type of event considered to be very propagative, because the majority of the guests did not wear a mask and the minimum sanitary rules were not respected.

The Trump administration obviously did not draw the right conclusions, as the same laxity applied on election night at the White House, which was attended by hundreds of people. About 15 guests have since been diagnosed positive for COVID-19, including Mark Meadows, chief of staff to the president, Corey Lewandowski, a campaign adviser to Trump and Ben Carson, the housing secretary.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are each seated at a desk and in a virtual meeting.

President-designate Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris held a virtual meeting of the COVID-19 task force on November 9.

Photo: Reuters / JONATHAN ERNST

Campaign rallies that helped infect more than 30,000 Americans

The flippancy or denial displayed during Donald Trump's election campaign certainly made the pandemic worse. The president has scaled up campaign events, holding up to five rallies a day, each bringing together thousands, if not tens of thousands of supporters, without masks, in close proximity to each other.

A team from Stanford University studied the impact of 18 of the gatherings. Its report, published on October 30, is final: scientists conclude that these events contributed at least to infecting 30,000 Americans and probably killed more than 700 people. In view of this report, Donald Trump, responsible for the national fight against the coronavirus, appears more like a firefighter-arsonist.

In these circumstances, states are often left on their own to counter the pandemic. The hardest hit, Texas and California, with over a million cases each, are successful because they are rich and populous states.

A woman is about to insert an ecovillon in her nose.

Drive-thru screening is organized like here on Staten Island, New York City.

Photo: Reuters / BRENDAN MCDERMID

For others, like North Dakota and South Dakota, it is much less obvious. These two Midwestern states are at the top of the list of the most contaminated states. The number of cases recorded per capita is twice as high as the national average. Since the election, a third of the governors in the country, both Republicans and Democrats, have reiterated calls for basic health rules. School closures and more or less strict confinement measures are increasing. All these measures suffer from a lack of coordination and leadership at the national level.

Scientists therefore expect the worst. Dr. Fauci, who is no longer in the odor of sanctity in the White House because he dares to contradict the president, is reduced to using his media aura to encourage Americans to wear a mask, to wash their hands often and keep a distance from each other.

And even if Donald Trump takes credit for accelerated vaccine development, more than 200,000 more Americans, it is projected, could die before they are available.

Read also :

  • Chicago confined, United States overwhelmed by virus
  • COVID-19: US hospitals under pressure again


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