COVID-19 Update: Approaching 100K Deaths In US

Ken AshfordEbola/Zika/COVID-19 Viruses, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment


United States:

NC and local:

Even as the number of deaths in North Carolina trends down, the head of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday reported “a notable and concerning increase” in novel coronavirus cases. The state recorded the “highest one-day COVID-19 cases reported with 1,107 additional cases” just as the state opened its restaurants to indoor dining under Phase 2 of the governor’s plan. Masks are not required.

Trump has been screeding a lot, including this “threat” to NC:

On a personal note, I found out last week that I tested POSITIVE for the ANTIBODIES to Covid-19, indicating that I had the virus at some point. The test was part of a Wake Forest University School of Internal Medicine Study, and it was NOT part of an FDA-approved test. Still, it is kind of a relief to know that I might be immune.

But returning to Trump, let’s review what our president has been up to in the past few days:

  • With the death toll from covid-19 about to top 100,000, Trump has offered almost nothing in the way of tributes to the dead, sympathy for their families, or acknowledgement of our national mourning. By all accounts he is barely bothering to manage his administration’s response to the pandemic, preferring to focus on cheerleading for an economic recovery he says is on its way, even as he feeds conspiracy theories about the death toll being inflated. This weekend, he went golfing.
  • In a Twitter spasm on Saturday and Sunday, Trump retweeted mockery of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) looks, along with a tweet calling Hillary Clinton a “skank.”
  • Eager to start a new culture war flare-up, he urged churches to open and gather parishioners in a room to breathe the same air, threatening that he would “override” governors whose shutdown orders still forbade such gatherings. The president has no such power.
  • He all but accused talk show host Joe Scarborough of murdering a young woman who died in 2001 in the then-congressman’s district office, bringing untold torture to her family from the conspiracy theorists who will respond to his accusation.
  • He has repeatedly insisted that the upcoming election is being “rigged” because states run by both Republicans and Democrats are making it easier to vote by mail, seeking to delegitimize a vote that has yet to occur, despite the substantial evidence that mail voting advantages neither party.

The truth is that Trump is not much more despicable of a human being than he has always been; it’s just that standard Trumpian behavior becomes more horrifying when it occurs during an ongoing national crisis. It is reality that changed around him, and he was incapable of responding to it.

Perhaps the most troubling is that Trump is ALREADY casting doubts on the election results.

Now, it’s true — Biden’s lead in the presidential race is pretty solid and that we could afford to feel a little bit hopeful about the election in November. Here’s the other side of that coin.

I think we’ve all contemplated the idea that Trump might refuse to accept the results of the election. After all, he said last time that he would only accept the results if he won/ Its not as if he’s been discreet about his thinking.

However, I suspect we all thought it was fairly unlikely unless the vote was super close like it was in Florida 2000. But the pandemic changes the calculation. Trump has shown a willingness to use “emergency” powers to jack his trade policy and build his stupid wall. Are we sure he won’t do it if a second wave of COVID hits during the weeks around the election? I’m not.

Anyway, the New York Times reports on some people doing some disaster planning around this idea:

In October, President Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening.

A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

After Mr. Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Mr. Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Mr. Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Mr. Trump and his administration abandon longstanding political norms.

The anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Just last week, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold funding from states that defy his wishes on expanding mail voting, while also amplifying unfounded claims of voter fraud in battleground states.

“In the eight to 10 months I’ve been yapping at people about this stuff, the reactions have gone from, ‘Don’t be silly, that won’t happen,’ to an increasing sense of, ‘You know, that could happen,’” said Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor. Earlier this year, Ms. Brooks convened an informal group of Democrats and never-Trump Republicans to brainstorm about ways the Trump administration could disrupt the election and to think about ways to prevent it.

But the anxiety is hardly limited to outside groups.

Marc Elias, a Washington lawyer who leads the Democratic National Committee’s legal efforts to fight voter suppression measures, said not a day goes by when he doesn’t field a question from senior Democratic officials about whether Mr. Trump could postpone or cancel the election. Prodded by allies to explain why not, Mr. Elias wrote a column on the subject in late March for his website — and it drew more traffic than anything he’d ever published.

But changing the date of the election is not what worries Mr. Elias. The bigger threat in his mind is the possibility that the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities, he said, that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.

Such events could serve to depress or discourage turnout in pockets of the country that reliably vote for Democrats.

“That to me is that frame from which all doomsday scenarios then go,” he said.

To ward off such a scenario, Mr. Elias is engaged in multiple lawsuits aimed at making it easier to cast absentee ballots by mail and making in-person voting more available, either on Election Day or in the preceding weeks.

Mr. Biden, for his part, has suggested more than once that Mr. Trump might try to disrupt or delay the election. And his campaign grew very concerned this month when it was announced that election security briefings, which in past cycles had been delivered to candidates by the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, would now be the province of the director of national intelligence. That post is currently held by John Ratcliffe, a Trump ally who was confirmed to the position on Thursday. Mr. Ratcliffe was among the president’s chief Fox News defenders during the Russia investigation and has been a sharp critic of the F.B.I.

“Since 2016, Donald Trump has shown that he is always ready to sacrifice our basic democratic norms for his personal and political interests,” said Bob Bauer, a Biden senior adviser who is the campaign’s chief lawyer. “We assume he may well resort to any kind of trick, ploy or scheme he can in order to hold onto his presidency. We have built a strong program to plan for and address every possibility to ensure that he does not succeed.”

Mr. Trump has said he expects the election to be held on Nov. 3 as scheduled, and under federal law he does not have the power to unilaterally postpone it. But a recent comment by the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner about whether the election would be held as scheduled — “I’m not sure I can commit one way or another,’’ he said — renewed fears that Mr. Trump would try to move the election, or discredit the balloting process, if he thought he was going to lose.

Ms. Brooks’s group at Georgetown is not the only one forecasting doomsday scenarios for the election. Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group dedicated to resisting authoritarian government, last year convened the National Task Force on Election Crises, a bipartisan 51-member group that includes Republicans such as Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary. The group is dedicated to envisioning and presenting plans for scenarios that could wreck the 2020 presidential election.


The task force began with 65 possibilities before narrowing the list early this year to eight potential calamities, including natural disasters, a successful foreign hack of voting machines, a major candidate’s challenging the election and seeking to delegitimize the results, and a president who refuses to participate in a peaceful transfer of power.

Among the scenarios they eliminated when making final cuts in January, ironically, was a killer pandemic that ravaged the country and kept people homebound before Election Day. After the coronavirus struck, the group reconstituted to publish pandemic-related recommendations for state governments to follow.

The group also produced a 200-page document, which has not been made public. Several members said they had worked on specific scenarios but had not seen the complete draft. They said that while many of the possibilities envisioned an incumbent president’s using the forces of government to his advantage, the report’s authors had been careful not to make the document explicitly about Mr. Trump.

“We hope there are safeguards in place,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who participated in the task force. “Let’s face it, those safeguards ought to include the Senate of the United States and the Justice Department. There’s reason to be nervous.”

After reading that I was tempted to write something like “I never thought I’d see the day when serious people would be contemplating such things in the United States of America.” But that wouldn’t be true. It was only 20 years ago that a 5-4 conservative Supreme Court majority decided a presidential election based on a dubious result in the Republican winner’s state which just happened to be run by his own Republican brother. Anyone who protested that was shushed by the media and everyone in politics and told to “get over it.” 9/11 happened just a few months later and that was that.

They have been preparing the ground for years.

Do we have any reason at all, after all we’ve seen from this administration — the acquiescent potted plants known as the GOP establishment, Trump’s corrupt Justice Department and now a pliant Intelligence Community run by an unqualified flunky — to believe it’s impossible that they’ll find some rationale for suppressing the vote or denying their loss in November? It clearly is not.