Donald Trump is taking an enormous gamble in his enthusiasm for making Americans believe the coronavirus is either not all that dangerous or else under control.
He’s betting he can urge Americans to return to life as normal without suffering dire consequences. His presidency really depends on whether he wins the bet.
Millions of Americans are on his side. People just find it hard to believe that a virus can kill or sicken tens of thousands of people when life superficially appears unchanged. That’s a message that’s hard to convey, and Trump has his finger on the pulse of those who assume it just can’t happen to them.
While everyone else around him may be wearing a face mask, he has yet to be seen with one.
Whatever I may think of Trump, I would definitely not want him to suffer as did Boris Johnson, the British prime minister who learned his lesson the hard way, winding up in the intensive-care unit with the virus after having brushed off the danger. Thank goodness he now seems cured.
You can hardly blame the mass of Americans, though, for wanting to go on with life as it was pre-virus. They have to make a living. They have businesses, jobs, stuff to do. Unemployment benefits cover only so much. Stimulus checks are quickly spent. Kids have to get back to school.
The millionaires, and the people with comfy jobs and nice pensions and investments and trust funds can survive just fine. They have no problem preaching the dangers of a second wave, of a relapse of the pandemic, of the need to wait for a vaccine for defense against the plague and a cure if you do get it.
Most Americans, like people everywhere, just don’t have the luxury of looking down from their privileged positions and advising everyone, just wait. Most people have to get back to making money now, today, not tomorrow.
An incredible number of people don’t have rainy-day funds, or if they do, they’re in danger of running through them. Nor can most plain, ordinary people, middle- and working-class folks, work from home, as I can do just by tapping away on a computer, as many others do via online webinars, wheeling and dealing, writing, editing, calculating and investing.
Those are luxuries that average people from the United States to everywhere else on earth don’t generally have.
But here’s a story with two and more sides. It’s not hard to appreciate the advice of people like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who may be America’s best-known doctor after appearing so often at Trump’s side in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Trump may not appreciate Fauci’s caution about getting back to normality prematurely, but he can’t let him go. Fauci’s advice is too even-tempered and too respected. While Trump has dumped numerous others for disagreeing with him, Fauci is too valuable a person to lose. Trump would be in for an unbelievably adverse response if he were dropped in favor of a simple yes man.
The danger of a spike is just too obvious to ignore. Just as South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in was extolling the nation’s success in almost overcoming the COVID-19, the disease flared up again in nightclubs in the famous Itaewon district not far from the former U.S. Korea Command headquarters in Seoul.
Since most U.S. troops departed after the command moved to Camp Humphreys south of Seoul, Itaewon has emerged as a multicultural neighborhood noted for a wide variety of cuisines, tastes and fashions. That’s great, but no excuse for ignoring guidelines on social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-cleaning.
The spike in cases traced to a few Itaewon clubs is not huge, but a lesson in the need to be careful, to follow common-sense rules and not to forget the ever-present danger of a disease for which there is as yet no cure. That’s why most of the bars and clubs, by order of the mayor, are closed.
Thankfully stores and shops remain open as do a lot of places just for dining or sipping tea and coffee.
The American situation is far, far worse than that in South Korea. Trump is betting that life will get much better by summer when the experts say the disease will be more difficult to transmit. If he wins the bet, he’ll take the credit for the right decision. If the pandemic worsens, he’s a loser.
No one knows better than Trump that the next six months before the presidential election will be crucial for a lot of people.
They have to worry not about the election but about staying well and feeding themselves and their families in a harsh economy divided between haves and have-nots.