Since the world learned shortly after midnight on Friday that President Donald Trump had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, more than 97,000 other Americans have been confirmed to have the virus. And the Covid-19 deaths of 1,575 people in the US have been reported, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The health of the president of the United States, after he contracted the virus that has plagued the country since February, is inevitably going to be the biggest news story for the foreseeable future. People want to know how the nation’s leader is faring, and the White House’s attempts to obfuscate Trump’s health status will drive reporters to try to find out what the public isn’t being told.
But Trump, it must be remembered, is not the only Covid-19 patient in the US right now. He is one of more than 30,000 Americans currently hospitalized with the disease. The country he leads is reporting, on average, more than 42,000 new cases every day and more than 700 daily deaths.
From February to early October, nearly 7.4 million Americans have had a confirmed case of Covid-19 and more than 209,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers of infections and deaths are almost certainly higher, but inadequate testing in the US has made it impossible to count every case and every death.
And it may still get worse. Cases are now starting to rise again, with the seven-day average of daily new cases up from about 34,000 in mid-September to 42,328 as of October 3. And as Vox’s German Lopez reported, experts worry what the fall and winter months will bring:
Part of the problem is America never really suppressed its Covid-19 cases to begin with. Think of a disease epidemic like a forest fire: It’s going to be really difficult to contain the virus when there are still flames raging in parts of the forest and small embers practically everywhere. The country always risks a full blaze with each step toward reopening and with each failure to take precautions seriously.
Consider Florida. This month, the state reopened bars and, more recently, restaurants, despite the high risk of these indoor spaces. The last time Florida opened bars, in June, experts said the establishments were largely to blame for the state’s massive Covid-19 outbreak in the summer. As Florida reopens now, it has roughly two to three times the number of Covid-19 cases that it had in early June, and its test positivity rate suggests it’s still likely missing a lot of cases. The state is fanning its flames while its most recent fire is nowhere near extinguished.
This is, in effect, what much of the country is doing now as it rushes to reopens schools, particularly colleges and universities, and risky indoor spaces. Coupled with recent Labor Day celebrations, experts worry that’s already leading to a new surge in Covid-19 cases.
President Donald Trump, for his part, has encouraged rapid reopenings.
Americans hold Trump responsible for the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, which is among the worst in the world. The US has one of the highest numbers of confirmed cases per million people and one of the highest numbers of confirmed deaths per million people. If the US had a death rate similar to Canada’s, more than 120,000 people would still be alive.
According to a new Ipsos/ABC News poll, 35 percent of Americans approve of how Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis and 64 percent disapprove. Just 27 percent thought the president had taken his own risk of contracting the virus seriously enough, while 72 percent thought he had not.
Now the president has been diagnosed with Covid-19, and he is staying at Walter Reed medical center for the time being. Senior Republicans who were at a White House event last weekend honoring Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, where masks and social distancing were eschewed, keep testing positive for the coronavirus. By all appearances, the president is at the center of a Covid-19 cluster that’s infected many of his party’s elites a month before the presidential election — and potentially White House staff and others in contact with the cluster.
Trump is, in the end, one patient among many. But America remains a deeply unequal country, one where race and income can determine whether one is more likely to survive or die from Covid-19.
The president is getting the best medical care available. He’s staying, for now, in Walter Reed’s six-room presidential hospital suite.