President Trump is the most recent in a long line of country leaders to fall victim to SARS-Cov-2 infection. Most notable include British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who came with the breath of a dying angel in an intensive care unit, Brazilian President Jair Bolosonaro, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko and many others around the world. . Chinese President Xi Jiping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are notably absent from this count. Both are infection-free and likely will remain so for very different reasons.
President Xi and other top Chinese officials are unlikely to be infected while they remain in China. Unique among the great nations, China has all but eliminated the virus from its borders. Sporadic epidemics affecting no more than ten to twenty people still occur, mainly due to repatriated citizens. These outbreaks are quickly contained using the same methods used to stop the original outbreak. Chinese leaders and the entire population of 1.4 billion people are now living without fear of infection.
The example of China shows that humanity can defeat the virus by public health measures alone, without the benefit of effective vaccines or drugs. China has no quick fix that other countries lack. The infections that rage across much of the rest of the world are a consequence of policy failure, government inaction and people’s resistance to effective measures to combat the pandemic. The world’s collective blindness to China’s achievements in eliminating Covid is almost incomprehensible.
The reasons why Vladimir Putin is not at risk of infection are radically different. Putin presides over a country with a raging infection much like President Trump’s. According to Russian sources, the pandemic in Russia reached an early peak in mid-May, eased slightly over the summer, and is once again endemic, despite the “approval” of an early Covid vaccine. August. According to the best reports available, Putin remains in the world’s most isolated bubble. He conducts all of his business virtually, remaining isolated in a private dacha outside of Moscow. He personally meets very few people and only after that person has been isolated for fourteen days and tested negative for infection. Putin’s own protective measures belies his public statements that the average Russian citizen is in no danger from the coronavirus.
Trump’s America continues to dominate the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths. To date, more than 7.3 million Americans have been infected and more than 206,000 have died. Daily cases of Covid-19 reached an early peak of between 25 and 30,000 per day in April and have never declined well below 20,000 per day in late spring and early summer, for peak at 75,000 in mid-August. . After a modest decrease to around 45,000,000 per day, Covid-19 infections are on the rise again in the United States. Yesterday, more than 53,000 Americans were reported to be infected. Covid-related deaths hover around 1,000 a day and are on the rise again.
The pandemic in the United States is widespread. Despite the president’s claims that blue states fare worse than red, the highest daily infection rates, measured in cases per 100,000, are in the Dakotas, 53 in North Dakota, 49 in South Dakota and Wisconsin (44), where Trump was planning a large rally, and Montana (31). For comparison, the average number of new cases per day in the United States is 13. Deaths per 100,000 closely mirror the highest infection rates in North and South Dakota and Wisconsin. The death rate as well as the infection rate is increasing across the country. All of the above figures are official and can significantly under-represent the actual toll.
How then could President Trump and his entourage avoid infection? Only by closely observing the protective measures recommended by his own administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services and the president’s own Covid task force. Despite these recommendations, the president and almost all other members of the administration close to him refused to follow the recommended guidelines, including compulsory mask wear, maintaining a distance of six feet for everyone else, limiting indoor gatherings to a few people for short periods with attendance all wearing masks, limiting the size of outdoor gatherings and emphasizing masks and social distancing even outdoors. All of these precautions have not been observed and in fact publicly defied. The president himself and members of his entourage mocked those who followed the recommended precautions including the protective actions of his rival for the presidency. How did he and his team not get infected while traveling across the country, especially in areas of the country with the highest known infection rates?
What happened to Trump, his infection and his illness was an obvious consequence of his own actions. As he is our president and a human being, we must all hope for a speedy recovery. But we cannot offer such hope to the more than two hundred thousand Americans who have died and the hundreds of thousands more who may die before Trump’s American pandemic is over. The tragedy is not in his infection but in his inability to act on what he knew to be disease from the start, that Covid-19 is a highly contagious airborne infection with the potential to be fatal.
Trump’s life may be spared by heroic medical intervention, like that of Boris Johnson, but all of his fellow citizens must continue to live in fear. We all face the personal and economic consequences of a pandemic that shouldn’t have happened. For decades and perhaps centuries, people will wonder if the Chinese with a vast population densely crammed into mega-cities much larger than those of the United States could control the pandemic and drive it to near zero in a matter of months, losing less than 5,000 lives, what went wrong in America? As a people, we must now fight to answer this question and act quickly to end Covid using the tools that have been proven to work. If the President survives his inevitable encounter with a destiny he himself created, that must be his task and we must do all we can to help him. If he doesn’t, the job is up to us.