Donald Trump Jr. — the respected business leader President Trump entrusted, along with his brother Eric, to run the family business on an arms-length basis during his presidency — appeared on Fox News last night to discuss epidemiology. (Junior’s expertise is truly expansive.) The Trump Organization acting co-director insisted that public-health experts warning about a building wave of coronavirus infections are completely wrong and stupid.
“These people are truly morons,” he told Laura Ingraham. “I went through the CDC data ’cause I kept hearing about new infections. But I was like, ‘Why aren’t they talking about deaths?’ Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing!”
President Trump, a devoted Fox News watcher and
devoted prolific father, probably noticed his son’s appearance, and repeated the false claim:
The number is not “almost nothing.” Junior is mangling some of his father’s talking points. One of those is the presidential claim that rising cases merely reflect expanded testing, and that the United States merely appears to have more cases than other countries because we test so much.
That is a form of denial that can appear superficially persuasive in the beginning stages of a pandemic wave. First, cases rise, followed by hospitalizations, and then by deaths. When cases have started to rise but hospitalizations haven’t, you say the rising cases are just more testing. When hospitalizations rise but deaths haven’t, you shift to insisting our hospitals are so good, nobody dies any more from COVID-19. Junior made this claim, too: “We’ve gotten control of this, we understand how it works, they have the therapeutics to deal with this.”
However, the current coronavirus wave has reached the stage where not only have hospitalizations risen, but deaths have also started to spike. Yesterday, about a thousand Americans died from COVID-19, a level far higher than during the trough:
The administration’s plan is simply to deny all of this, suppress testing because it makes Trump look bad, and replace public-health experts with people whose level of sophistication resembles Donald Trump Jr.’s.