Until Sunday, President Donald Trump continued to fire up his base with suggestions that it was time to relax the nationwide shutdown. He announced plans last week to identify individual counties, particularly in the rural Midwest, that he believes are not under threat and should get back to work. Knowing how Trump's mind works, it's fairly obvious that he is motivated not by concerns for Americans' health but by a desire to restore economic-performance bragging rights ahead of the November election.
But too many factors argued strongly against his irresponsible assertions about who's safe to go back to work and who isn't. In Britain, three of that nation's most high-profile figures — Prince Charles, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the nation's top coronavirus fighter, Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock — have all tested positive. If this virus could reach the topmost echelons of British leadership, it's clear there's no such thing as a safe zone.
Also underscoring that point are the positive tests for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and the husband of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, along with multiple people who have been in close contact with Trump himself. Yet even when the nation's top health experts stood on the same White House podium with Trump and argued that relaxing the workplace shutdown would be ill-advised, Trump persisted in contradicting them. Having revved up his base and Fox News cheerleaders, the result was a Twitter and email campaign by supporters effectively saying: Trump is right and the experts are wrong. But on Sunday, Trump effectively acknowledged he was wrong.
One of the strongest voices arguing against Trump's previous position was Trump himself. He sent out a letter last week to millions of Americans, headlined, "President Trump's coronavirus guidelines for America," in which Trump stated: "Work or study FROM HOME whenever possible. AVOID SOCIAL GATHERINGS in groups of more than 10 people," and stay away from bars and restaurants. Avoid traveling and shopping trips, he advised.
Trump's own advice was to keep the American workplace and marketplace shut down. "It is critical that you do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus," his letter states.
National maps pinpointing where cases of the virus have been confirmed show that rural areas remain highly vulnerable, including throughout the Midwest. Every global hot spot, starting with Wuhan in China, began with a single infection. The virus has demonstrated its uncanny ability to hop from one carrier to the next and multiply exponentially, claiming hundreds of thousands of victims.
The single case reported Friday in seemingly safe St. Joseph, Missouri, has just as much hot spot potential as, say, that single case in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Americans underestimate this disease's potential at our collective peril.
This is no time for America to let down its guard, because there is no such thing as a safe harbor from the coronavirus, as Trump now acknowledges.
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