Coronavirus rages across the entire U.S., triggering new closures
In this Oct. 26,2020, file photo, a medical worker stands at a COVID-19 state drive-thru testing site at UTEP, in El Paso, Texas. EL Paso hospitals are now filling refrigerated morgue trucks with the bodies of the dead. | Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times via AP

WASHINGTON—The coronavirus’s accelerating gallop across the U.S. is spurring states and cities—left to fend for themselves by GOP Oval Office occupant and virus denier Donald Trump—to fend for themselves by imposing, or re-imposing, drastic closure measures to try to stop its spread.

And, in a measure of Trump’s waning influence, even some red state governors now ignore him and order residents to wear masks in public full-time, socially distance, sanitize and take other measures to help stop community spread of the contagion.

The question, though, is whether all that will be too little, or too late.

The latest data, from the authoritative Johns Hopkins University world coronavirus tracking website, reports that from the U.S. declaration of the pandemic on March 13 through 10 a.m. on Nov. 18, 11.365 million people nationwide have tested positive. That’s one-fifth of the worldwide total.

Of that group, 161,934 tested positive the day before, a new national high. Several states, notably Minnesota and Montana, hit highs on Nov. 17, too. More than half a dozen states had their own highs earlier in the week.

Deaths are rising, too, and hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients. The U.S. death toll as of Nov. 18 was 248,734, 18.5% of the world total of 1.342 million.

The impact of past inaction showed up in Iowa, among other places. Last weekend, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds became the latest red-state leader to defy Trump and impose anti-viral measures. It only took her eight months to do so.

Reynolds ordered a partial state-wide mask-wearing mandate. But her past inaction produced a 40.7% rise in Iowa’s coronavirus death toll in the last seven days, to 166, compared to the previous seven.

Other states showed similar increases, even where governors defied Trump. Illinois deaths over the last seven days rose to 672, up 39%. Michigan tallied 417 new deaths, up 25.2%. All but 29 of the new deaths were outside of Detroit.

Major cities, led by Chicago, also went into lockdown mode as cases soared. Mayor Lori Lightfoot told everyone to cancel big family Thanksgiving gatherings and to assume, when they went outside, that everyone they see is infected, even if they show no symptoms. She again postponed reopening the city’s schools to in-school classes, to Jan. 11.

That rankled the Chicago Teachers Union, AFT Local 1, which has been at odds with Lightfoot for months over physically re-opening the schools too soon.

“Today’s announcement appears to be based on the mayor’s political agenda because it sure isn’t based on science,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Just unilaterally picking an arbitrary date in the future and hoping everything works out is a recipe for disaster.”

Lightfoot issued her orders after Gov. J.B. Pritzker, D-Ill., ordered statewide closures, starting Nov. 20, of museums, theaters, casinos, and many non-essential businesses, and chopped restaurant capacities in half, to 25%, among other moves. Illinois had hit a new daily high in positive cases, over 10,000.

Gov. Doug Borgum, R-N.D., who previously pleaded for voluntary mask-wearing—attempting to walk the line between his pro-Trump electorate and public health—imposed a statewide mask mandate for outdoors and inside businesses and public settings.

North Dakota’s enforcing its mandate with $1,000 fines against resisters. But past Dakotan defiance of mandates, and adherence to Trump’s line, showed up in the numbers. North Dakota set a record high of new cases, 2,770, on Nov. 14, and deaths, 32, on Nov. 17. Resistance continued, too: Some local mayors defied Borgum, the Washington Post reported.

Other GOP governors still follow Trump’s line and refuse to order precautions against the virus, officially called COVID-19, the paper added. Instead, they seem to be challenging Democratic President-Elect Joe Biden, who beat Trump in the November election. Biden says wearing an anti-viral mask is both common sense and a patriotic duty. He proposes nationwide mandatory masking and other social distancing measures, for starters.

And while Trump’s mass rallies prompted viral outbreaks in states in the runup to the election, and his ceremonies featuring no social distancing and no masks turned the White House into a hotspot, Congress has now joined the scene.

Six lawmakers, four of them Republicans, tested positive for the virus since Congress returned this week from its weeks-long recess to campaign. Among them were the oldest Republicans, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, and Rep. Don Young of Alaska, both 87, and Rep. Cherri Bustos, D-Ill., the Rock Islander who chaired her party’s House campaign committee.

Before he tested positive and self-quarantined on Nov. 16, Grassley spoke on the Senate floor, attended a Senate GOP leadership meeting, and worked with aides, all without wearing a mask. Neither did Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., an outspoken foe of anti-viral measures in his home state—and of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., the potential victim of a kidnapping conspiracy from Trumpites hating her anti-viral lockdowns there. Walberg tested positive, too.

The FBI arrested 13 conspirators before they could abduct her. Trump had cheered them on.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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