America’s pandemic death toll climbed past 100,000 this week, as states continued lifting restrictions amid concerns that an accelerated return to public life may launch a new wave of coronavirus infections. The grim milestone came as Memorial Day weekend ushered in the most unusual summer season in memory, with concerts and baseball games canceled, summer camps shuttered, and even simple pleasures like a trip to an ice cream stand complicated by fears of contagion and conflicts over masks and distancing. The nation’s overall infection numbers have slowed, with steep drops in deaths and hospitalizations in hard-hit New York and New Jersey, as well as Illinois and Michigan, following weeks of strict stay-at-home orders. But confirmed cases were trending upward in 20 states, with hot spots in Alabama, Missouri, and North Carolina and the virus reaching rural counties with vulnerable populations and few hospital beds. “I’m concerned that there are people who think that this is the all-clear,” said former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
In locales across the country, maskless revelers packed together in boisterous Memorial Day celebrations, even as flags flew at half-mast to commemorate the 100,000 dead. Crowds thronged the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., and danced in the streets in Daytona Beach, Fla. Bathing-suited partiers stood shoulder to shoulder in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, while thousands filled the stands at the Ace Speedway in Alamance County, N.C., in defiance of a state order limiting gatherings to 25. “We’re tired of being stuck in the house,” said spectator Becky Woosley. “I’m not afraid of this virus one bit.”
Meanwhile, President Trump spent the weekend golfing at his club in Virginia and launching a barrage of tweets at perceived enemies. He retweeted a message calling Hillary Clinton a “skank” and another depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with her mouth duct-taped shut. He also repeatedly called for a murder investigation of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a frequent critic, in the 2001 death of a former congressional aide—a groundless claim that appalled many fellow Republicans.Trump made no mention of the Americans who’d died of Covid-19.
The number 100,000 is “almost too enormous to grasp,” said the Houston Chronicle. It’s 33 times greater than the death toll from 9/11, and more deaths than America suffered in the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq Wars combined. But these people “were not numbers.” They were cooks, retired teachers, law enforcement officers, church leaders, nurses, spouses and grandparents, many of whom died alone, “tethered to ventilators and forced to say final farewells by phones and iPads.”
The U.S. is suffering “the blue state lockdown blues,” Our national recovery is being hampered by slow-moving Democratic states that represent about a third of the U.S. economy. Nearly 10 weeks of strict lockdowns in California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois have led to severe job losses. Forty-one percent of construction jobs have been lost in New York, for example—compared with 4 percent in Florida. The result will be business foreclosures, evictions, and bankruptcies felt well beyond those states’ borders.
“As the United States’ death toll raced toward 100,000, Donald Trump went golfing,” It’s a perfect symbol for the president’s “catastrophic” handling of a pandemic that “never had to reach such a staggering figure.” A new Columbia University study found that if the U.S. had started social distancing two weeks earlier, it could have prevented 84 percent of deaths and 82 percent of cases. Instead, Trump “defied truth and science” and insisted the virus would simply just go away. “In America, this is Donald Trump’s plague.”
“The Covid-19 lockdown has served its purpose,” The goal wasn’t to shut the virus down entirely, which is impossible. It was to buy time to learn how to minimize harm and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. “We have accomplished those goals,” at a cost of almost 40 million lost jobs, profound mental suffering, and our children’s lost education. It’s time to send our citizens back to work and our children back to school.
Most people say otherwise, As case numbers in many areas continue to rise, “public opinion is astonishingly united behind socialdistancing measures.” Public-health experts are warning of a resurgence, and “there’s not much evidence that simply dropping restrictions will save the economy.” Indeed, it may backfire. So why are we inviting people to return to gyms, hair salons, public pools, and restaurants? “A small slice of the population, led by the president of the United States, has managed to drive this momentous and risky move.”