President Donald Trump has been unable to hold campaign rallies for well over a month. It doesn’t take a critical pundit to observe that Trump has since replaced his rallies with daily COVID-19 pressers. However, this has arguably been more damaging for the cause of public health than radio silence from the White House.
This is not because Trump’s COVID response team is uneducated. Quite to the contrary, the task force, headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, is very capable and knowledgeable. Instead, the pressers have served as a way for Trump to engage in his typical argumentative banter with reporters. As this is the section of the pressers he relishes the most, it’s the one he rushes to.
While Trump’s team provides him with an outline of the day’s talking points, he’s eager to move through them quickly. He often makes last-minute adjustments before addressing the cameras. During these adjustments, facts tend to be secondary to spreading a rosy narrative. Trump has touted untested and unproven drugs as treatments for COVID. He’s recently floated injecting disinfectants to fight the virus.
This is all a means to an end: being loud, argumentative, brash and in front of cameras. Trump’s daily schedule now consists of watching TV, alone, before heading to the pressers. He’s acutely aware of what’s said on Fox News, on MSNBC, on ABC News. The president is reacting in real time to pundits, driven by ratings. To Trump, this is nothing more than prime-time TV.
While COVID has scrambled life in the US, there have been some glimmers of hope. Despite grim forecasts, the death toll in the country has trended under some modeling. Additionally, surveying with antibody tests shows that infection has already been more widespread than anticipated. Contrary to how that sounds, it’s a good thing.
That means that, while recorded infections had a roughly 20% mortality rate, the disease as a whole did not. Some data is now showing that the mortality rate of the disease could be as low a 0.5% in the general population. This, coupled with a widespread infection rate, could be very good news.
If COVID spread widely already, this could mean much of the population already has antibodies. Antibodies are special proteins that help the immune system fight off specific viruses. In the case of COVID, which has no vaccine and no known cure, this is huge. Widespread “herd immunity” would mean that the lockdown orders could be lifted sooner than originally anticipated.