Covid-19 spreading across the country
The coronavirus pandemic intensified across the U.S. this week, with caseloads soaring in hard-hit cities such as New Orleans and Detroit and new hot spots flaring in almost every state. Michigan reported nearly 7,700 infections and at least 264 deaths as of midweek, and Chicago turned the McCormick Place convention center into a 3,000-bed field hospital. In Georgia’s rural Dougherty County—population 90,000—an outbreak that began among attendees at a funeral has killed at least 27 people and infected some 480 more. After weeks of pressure from public health officials, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered residents to remain in their homes for all but essential activities, joining more than 30 states that have instituted a lockdown. But governors in Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama, and elsewhere remained resistant to ordering statewide shutdowns. “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York state, we are not California,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said last week of her state’s then small caseload. Alabama’s number of infections has since topped 1,000, and at least 26 people there have died.
As states scrambled to secure medical supplies to cope with a flood of hospitalizations, President Trump declined to take charge of the procurement process, saying the federal government is merely the “backup.” Absent a coordinated response from the administration, states bid against one another—and sometimes the federal government—to get masks and ventilators. “It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Meanwhile, Trump sniped at Democratic governors he said weren’t “appreciative” of his efforts, calling Washington’s Jay Inslee “a nasty person” and saying Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer was “in over her head.”
What the editorials said
Why did Gov. DeSantis wait so long? asked the Orlando Sentinel. “Thanks largely to his inaction and indecisiveness,” Florida was for weeks “a crazy quilt of state and local coronavirus orders.” Some counties told people to stay home, while in neighboring areas, mobs of spring breakers kept partying on the beach. Now, with more than 7,000 Covid-19 cases reported and at least 85 Floridians dead, DeSantis has finally locked the state down. Let’s hope he wasn’t too late to avert a tragedy of epic proportions.
“Trump should cut the drama and pettiness,” said WashingtonExaminer.com. The president’s brash style got him through the 2016 election and impeachment. But we are now in the midst of a national emergency. “This is a time for the president to be rising above the fray and to be calling for national unity,” not bashing Democratic governors.
What the columnists said
Politics seems to have infected the federal response to this disaster, said Matt Stieb in NYMag.com. Some states with Democratic leadership have struggled to get what they need from the Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency supply of masks, drugs, and other medical equipment. Massachusetts received 17 percent of its order and Maine only 5 percent. “Then there’s Florida, where Trump resides” and which has a staunch Trump ally for a governor. Its request in early March, which included 430,000 surgical masks and 180,000 N95 respirators, was delivered in full within three days. A second, identical shipment arrived just over a week later.
Trump is deploying his Ukrainian playbook at home, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. He used the holdup of U.S. military aid to Ukraine to try to extract a sham investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and now he’s dangling the promise of medical supplies to make blue-state governors say nice things about him. Trump isn’t just feeding his ego, he’s getting help with the November election: “His campaign just rolled out a new ad, titled ‘Hope,’ featuring appreciative quotes from Cuomo and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California.”
Given their smaller, more scattered populations, many rural communities might think this pandemic will pass them by, said Lois Parshley in Vox.com. But they will likely be hit “later—and harder.” Covid-19 clusters are already springing up in small towns in the South and Midwest. And because rural America has a drastic shortage of ICU beds and doctors, as well as a population that tends to be older and sicker than in urban areas, its death toll could rapidly accelerate. There are no safe places in this pandemic. ■