The same day, at a rally at Waterford Township, Michigan, President Donald Trump told supporters, “You live with [the coronavirus], and you know what to do — we understand it now, you’ve got to understand it. But we’re making that beautiful turn, and the vaccines are coming.”
Trump has long downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus, a habit that has contributed to the country’s struggle to lower the level of infections. But his denial is particularly distressing in light of Friday’s case total setting the world record for the most cases in a single day, surpassing India’s one-day record of 97,894 cases in September. Friday marks the fifth time in the past eight days that the US has reported more new cases than its previous high of 75,687 cases, which dates back to July.
Trump thinks the fact that only 3 percent of ER visits are for Covid is evidence of his "relentless efforts" pic.twitter.com/8dzh0bULk6— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 30, 2020
Trump has incorrectly argued that the US is seeing more cases only because it is testing more. As Vox’s Aaron Rupar has explained, if this were true, case totals and testing totals would be rising at a similar rate — in reality, cases have risen at a rate nearly four times that of testing in recent weeks.
With just days until the 2020 presidential election, the US ticked past 9 million total cases on Thursday, and the rolling seven-day case average in the US has risen past its previous high. At 79,833 cases per day, it’s a preview of what may still be to come as the US heads into winter.
In Wisconsin, where Trump rallied Friday, Gov. Tony Evers warned: “There is no way to sugarcoat it, we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you and your family.” As of earlier this week, 84 percent of hospital beds in the state were full, according to CNN, with hospitalizations still rising.
In total, almost 230,000 people have died in the US since the pandemic began, and deaths — like cases — are rising.
“We’re about to go into a dark winter”
As bad as the current US outbreak looks, things are almost certain to get worse.
Epidemiologists have long warned that the winter months, when social distancing is sure to become harder as more people stay inside, have the potential to be among the worst of the pandemic so far. In a Friday interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned that current case numbers are “quite unacceptable.”
“We’re in a precarious position over the next several weeks to months,” Fauci told SiriusXM.
As Vox reporters Umair Irfan, Julia Belluz, and Brian Resnick explained this week, hospitalizations and deaths — which are already rising — are lagging indicators. This means that although they currently appear less than catastrophic, case totals suggest that in a few weeks’ time, both hospitalization and death numbers will likely see a sharp increase. If the virus continues on its current trajectory, hospitals could once again be overwhelmed with a surge in Covid-19 patients, and “the gains doctors have made treating critically ill patients could rapidly be undone.”
On Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert echoed this warning in a sobering series of tweets. “Our hospitals cannot keep up with Utah’s infection rate,” he wrote. “You deserve to understand the dire situation we face.”
Our hospitals cannot keep up with Utah’s infection rate. You deserve to understand the dire situation we face.— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) October 29, 2020
Unlike Herbert, however, Trump has consistently spread misinformation on the campaign trail about what’s to come.
In addition to consistently — and falsely — insisting the US is “rounding the corner” in the pandemic, Trump has also ignored the fact that the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths are likely undercounted, spreading a conspiracy theory Friday that doctors are deliberately overcounting deaths in order to profit off of the virus.
"Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid. You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people." -- Trump pushes a baseless conspiracy that greedy American health care workers are overcounting coronavirus deaths pic.twitter.com/fsajGTvvN3— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 30, 2020
Both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and the American Medical Association condemned Trump’s remarks on Friday.
“Doctors and nurses go to work every day to save lives,” Biden said. “They do their jobs. Donald Trump should stop attacking them and do his job.”
In stark contrast to Trump, Biden has made a point of emphasizing public health guidelines on the campaign trail, including the use of masks and social distancing. He’s also cautioned against the president’s overly ambitious promises about a vaccine.
“We’re about to go into a dark winter,” Biden told voters at the final presidential debate earlier this month. “And there’s no prospect that a vaccine is going to be available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.”