By Adam Cancryn and Dan Diamond
Just more than a month ago, Americans headed into a holiday long weekend feeling hopeful — if not quite confident — that the worst of the pandemic’s first wave was over.
Daily coronavirus cases, while still high, had leveled out. Key parts of the federal response were showing progress. And in states around the country, elements of everyday life were starting back up.
This coming holiday weekend, by contrast, is going to hit differently. We now know that Memorial Day seeded the resurgence that’s consuming swaths of the U.S., forcing reopening reversals and straining provider capacity as cases and hospitalizations hit record levels. The nation recorded more than 50,000 cases on Wednesday for the first time ever, with the vast majority of states now registering rising caseloads over the last two weeks.
It’s a situation likely to get worse before it gets better, as states struggle to contain the fresh outbreaks and navigate new economic challenges. And if on Memorial Day the public felt things were looking up, this July 4 is about confronting the reality that improvement is going to take a concerted — and coordinated — effort to beat back the pandemic.
Of course, that’s what public health experts have warned all along. The U.S had a roadmap to safety at its fingertips months ago and largely failed to follow it — turning the summer months into a tragically predictable “I told you so” moment, Politico’s Joanne Kenen reports.
Many states blew past checkpoints in their rush to reopen, failed to ramp up testing and tracing capabilities and blindly bought into the idea that the worst of the crisis was over. The Trump administration in the meantime receded from its public messaging role in the response, creating an opening for covid-19 to take hold across America once again.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci testified this week.
But for Trump, the reality has yet to sink in. The president on Wednesday reiterated his hope that the virus will “sort of just disappear” during a Fox Business Network interview, a point that press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated later in the day.
“The president is confident that it will disappear,” she said, later downplaying spiking case counts in Arizona and Florida as “embers” throughout the country. “He’s confident that he’s put together a revolutionary first-class team that is going to break through bureaucracy and get us a vaccine.”
Trump is planning to attend a fireworks celebration Friday at Mount Rushmore, where South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has already vowed “We won’t be social distancing” — a gathering the likes of which Fauci warned people should not attend.