America is hurtling headlong into a fresh round of chaos as the White House's election year political calculus trumps a public health apocalypse with nearly half of the country's 50 states reporting an alarming uptick in COVID19 cases after a spate of hurried re-openings.
Total US cases topped the two million mark Thursday, the death toll climbed beyond 114,000 and the Trump campaign is readying for "tremendous" public rallies in at least four states with rising cases: Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas.
Thursday offered the clearest signal yet that the White House has abandoned its public health leadership role during a pandemic.
The Trump campaign is asking Americans not to hold the US president accountable for COVID19 infections during his first rally in months, coming up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like Trump, his deputy Mike Pence is also going mask-less in the midst of crowds, drawing widespread criticism from the medical community.
Trump is eager to wade into his sweet spot of wild rallies with thousands of cheering supporters. It's not hard to see why: His poll numbers have tanked to 41 per cent, eight in 10 Americans think the country is out of control according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll and he's got consistently low marks for his handling of the pandemic and protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American man brutally killed by a white police officer last month.
Trump's approval has always stayed in a very narrow range in the early 40s but data obsessors are saying it will matter a lot more whether Trump's approval is close to 40 per cent or 45 per cent closer to the election. White House insiders have reportedly begun panicking about the election result if Trump does not course-correct.
And, while the politics heats up, the virus is not going away. Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is projecting nearly 170,000 deaths by October 1 this year.
Health experts are not singling out any specific reason for the current caseload surge. They count lifting of stay-at-home orders and the unscheduled surge of people in the public square during the recent protests as the main ingredients in a dangerous cocktail.
Meanwhile, Arizona is fast becoming the new epicenter with more than 1,150 deaths projected on June 11 alone. The state's projected graph is climbing unabated till September this year, at current levels of social distancing. Infections here have spiked to their highest levels since the pandemic began. In Texas, hospitalizations surged past 2,000 this week for the first time during the pandemic. The state's percentage of positive tests is among the highest in the US.
Dr. Joe Gerald, from the University of Arizona told ANBC health experts are "very worried" that hospitals will be overwhelmed. Arizona hospitals are already at 80 percent capacity.
Doctors are wringing their hands that Americans are not hearing the essential public health advice they need to be hearing from the White House at this moment.A
This isn't a new gripe, though. The White House's zig zag messaging has been the enduring headline of the US response to the pandemic.
At the moment, the overall US caseload has plateaued and it isn't budging for the last 80 days.
The question that's doing the rounds now is this: Which state will be the first to lockdown again?
America is coming full circle. In more ways than one.
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