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There are three outlandish claims that Donald Trump repeatedly makes about coronavirus as he criss-crosses the country in the final stretch of the US election campaign.
The first is that America is “rounding the turn” on the virus. This, however, flies in the face of the latest case numbers and hospitalisation rates, including a new single-day record of more than 83,000 cases at the end of last week.
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Saturday night (Sunday AEDT).Credit:AP
The second is that a vaccine will be “ready within weeks”. This is also grossly misleading given health officials such as Dr Anthony Fauci maintain that even if a vaccine is announced by the end of the year, it’s unlikely to be widely available until around April 2021.
And the third is that the President himself, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 but has since recovered, is now “immune”.
Trump often makes this claim while spruiking Regeneron, the experimental antibody cocktail he was given as part of his treatment when he was hospitalised earlier this month.
What he doesn’t say in the same breath is that the drug has not yet been formally approved, let alone certified as the COVID-19 "cure" he keeps touting.
Trump takes off his mask on the balcony of the White House after contracting coronavirus.Credit:Getty Images
What’s more, research suggests that coronavirus reinfection can occur – and the second bout of illness can be more severe.
It would be easy to pass off these exaggerated claims as Trump just being Trump, if it weren’t for the fact that lives are at stake.
But with 10 days until the election, America is on the brink of what many public health experts consider to be the country's third wave of the pandemic.
By the end of last Friday (US time), the nation recorded a further 83,757 new cases in a day, shattering the previous high of 77,362 recorded on July 16, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The number of people being hospitalised had also risen by about 40 per cent in a month, with most states across the country now trending upwards.
And by Saturday, six of those states – Alaska, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois and Ohio – announced they’d had more new cases of the virus in a day than ever before.
As Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, put it last week: “Yes we’re turning a corner – but into a tsunami of an increase in cases, hospitalisations and deaths.”
The tragic part is that it need not be this way. Health experts have been warning for months that another outbreak loomed as America headed into the colder months, and that things would worsen unless there was a shift in the way the virus was handled.
Such a shift didn't require rocket science, either. As other countries have shown, caseloads can be driven down by wearing a mask and social distancing. Then, when there is a spread, effective testing and contract tracing can mitigate the problem.
“It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public health measures, and again I emphasise, without necessarily shutting down the country,” Fauci told Johns Hopkins University during a Q&A on Thursday.
Sadly, such measures are sorely missing in the US. Instead, efforts to improve testing and tracing are too often undercut by partisan bickering. A virus that has so far killed more than 224,000 Americans is too often seen through the prism of politics, rather than as a public health emergency. And federal leadership is too often replaced by denialism and lies.
Whether voters have had enough of this approach is something we’ll know come November 3.
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