Losing the fight against the coronavirus
In the category of "famous last words," my favorite has always been what Union Army Gen. John Sedgwick said when urged to take cover from Confederate sharpshooters. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance," he replied, and then fell dead from a rifle shot.
Mike Pence is guilty of a similar miscalculation. Writing in The Wall Street Journal on June 16, he boasted of the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic: "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy."
He spiked the football short of the goal line. On Thursday, the United States had 39,327 new cases of the virus, a record. The Wall Street Journal reported that 33 states "had a seven-day average of new cases on Tuesday that was higher than their 14-day average" -- compared with 21 states at the beginning of June.
"All 50 states have begun to reopen in a safe and responsible manner," Pence claimed. Not quite. Seven states -- Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- set new daily records for hospitalizations on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.
Some of these states, notably Texas and Arizona, have been aggressive in reopening. But faced with this surge, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would roll back some of his reopening. It was as if the defenders of the Alamo had decided to pack up and flee.
The home of Walt Disney World -- "The Most Magical Place on Earth" -- is finding that magic doesn't kill the virus. Florida, which has been in a hurry to return to normal, set a record Wednesday with 5,508 new cases -- only to report a staggering 8,942 Friday. But it is charging ahead with its reopening.
What has Donald Trump done lately? He said he was not worried about holding an indoor rally in Tulsa during the pandemic. "It's dying out," he claimed. Thousands of supporters showed up, most without masks, even as Oklahoma was reporting record numbers of new cases. He said he told his aides to "slow the testing down" so the number of new cases would be lower.
He did another rally in Phoenix, where 3,000 attendees largely ignored the local mandate that they wear masks. "It's going away," Trump assured them.
Not in Arizona, though. On Thursday, the state broke records for new cases, hospitalizations and use of ventilators. "Arizona has lost control of the epidemic," reported PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Florida, PolicyLab had said earlier, "has all the makings of the next large epicenter" of the pandemic. Seeing a forest fire, Trump fetches a can of gasoline. The president insisted on moving the August Republican National Convention to Jacksonville so he can accept the nomination before cheering delegates packed into a big venue.