Seven months after President Donald Trump praised the Chinese for how they were handling their Covid-19 outbreak and assured the American people that “we’re in great shape,” the nation hit 7 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the latest NBC News figures showed Thursday.
With the Covid-19 death toll now over 200,000 and Trump accused of lying and misleading the American people about the danger, the governors of New York and Michigan called for a congressional investigation into whether the president knowingly impeded the pandemic response to protect his re-election chances.
“It is an inarguable fact that the United States has had the worst response to the Covid-19 virus of any nation in the world,” Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, both Democrats, said in a statement Thursday. “Rather than turning to the advice and direction of public health experts and career public servants, President Trump instead put the health and security of the American people in the hands of political appointees whose first priority was securing the re-election of their benefactor, with predictably tragic results.”
Researchers whose dire predictions early on in the pandemic were met with scorn and derision were taking no pleasure in being proven right.
“If we go back to March, at that time, we were saying if this thing is not handled very carefully, we could end up with 200,000 or 300,000 deaths,” said Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute, told NBC News. “At that time, everyone was saying that’s impossible. I think we should use that perspective now, especially when we think about the future.”
Right now the U.S. accounts for over a fifth of the nearly 1 million deaths reported worldwide and over a fifth of the 32 million confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard.
While early on the Northeast was hit hardest by the virus, most of the infections and deaths since May have been reported in the Southern and Sun Belt states that started reopening at the urging of the president, who was desperate to restart an economy that had collapsed when the country went into lockdown — and who insisted the virus would “just disappear.”
Trump made that prediction in July, when the U.S was logging a record 62,000 new cases a day, according to NBC News numbers.
Since then, the average daily number of new cases has been going down; it was 47,000 a day in August, and this month the U.S. has been averaging 39,700.
But this week Covid-19 infections in the U.S. were trending upward again, NBC News figures showed, as students across the country returned to classrooms and the weather started to cool, driving more people back inside and into greater danger from a virus that spreads fastest in enclosed spaces.
The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases dipped below 40,000-per-day for the first time since June on Sept. 11, the day America marked the 19th anniversary of the Al Qaeda terror attacks. By Friday it was back over 40,000 again. There were 43,670 new cases reported Wednesday.
And with public health experts warning of a potential second wave of infections and even a “twindemic” as flu season kicks in, that declining daily average of new Covid-19 cases was still much higher than experts said it should be.
“We must, over the next few weeks, get that baseline of infections down to 10,000 per day, or even much less if we want to maintain control of this outbreak,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, said this week.
California, the most populous state in the country, continued to lead the nation in reported cases with 798,314, although the rate at which new cases were being reported had slowed down considerably. But Texas was not far behind, with 748,982 cases, followed by Florida, with 690,499.
Currently, the nation’s hot spot is Wisconsin, where Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday declared a new public health emergency because of a recent surge of new infections, particularly among young people. The 23,000 new cases in Wisconsin in the last two weeks are double the number the state reported in the two weeks before that, NBC News numbers showed.
Other Midwestern states were also being hit hard. Missouri has reported 10,971 new infections and 199 deaths from Covid-19 in the last seven days, and 60 of those fatalities were just on Wednesday.
That same day, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and his wife, Teresa, revealed they both had tested positive and gone into quarantine. A Republican, Parson has repeatedly refused to mandate that residents wear masks and has been hit-or-miss about wearing one himself at public events.
“You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” Parson has said. “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask.”
Missouri public health officials had been bracing for a spike in new Covid-19 cases after thousands of bikers rumbled into the Lake of the Ozarks region last week for a rally where there was next to no social distancing or mask wearing. They fear the five-day bash could become a “superspreader” like last month’s biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which resulted in hundreds of new infections in that and neighboring states and at least one death in Minnesota.
- Yet another struggle to get Americans to comply with Covid-19 safety regulations was caught on video when a woman in Logan, Ohio, who apparently refused to wear a mask at a middle school football game was tasered by a police officer. She was then forcibly removed from the stadium, but not before swearing up a storm. The video, which was shot by a fan in the stands, quickly went viral. The Logan-Hocking Local School District identified the woman only as a fan of the opposing school. Trump has been accused of politicizing mask wearing by refusing for months to don one in public.
The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits ticked up again Thursday to 870,000, the U.S. Department of Labor reported. “The jobless claims data paints a picture of a labor market recovery that’s struggling to maintain momentum,” economist Nancy Vanden Houten of Oxford Economics said. Gary Cohn, who is Trump’s former National Economic Council Director, told NBC News that “until we find a way to bring that industry back and many other small local businesses, we’re not to be in a huge, strong, deep economic recovery.”
The last of the pandemic jobless benefits for millions of Americans are about to expire and with no relief deal between the Trump administration and Congress on the horizon the desperation was growing. “After this month, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” laid off fast-food restaurant facilities director John Wilkins told NBC News. “We canceled cable. We got rid of our crappy air conditioner. We’ve cut way back. Still not making it.” When Trump took the reins from President Barack Obama in January 2017, the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent. It’s now 8.4 percent.
Dr. Amy Acton, the former health director of Ohio whose aggressive steps to stop the spread of Covid-19 in her state made her a public health hero, was honored for her service by her alma mater, Ohio State University. “She elevated the needs of public health and secured resources throughout Ohio to effectively slow the spread of the virus,” OSU said in a statement. But not long ago, Acton’s house was besieged by mostly Trump supporters angered by the lockdowns that she and Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, had imposed on the state. Acton quit in June after local Republicans tried to curb her power. Since then, Ohio has battled a resurgence of the virus.