Despite reality, Trump insists coronavirus crisis is 'dying out'

There is no universe in which Trump's latest coronavirus claims are true. But the problem isn't just his dishonesty; it's also his dangerous indifference.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with conservative black supporters in the Cabinet Room at the White House
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with conservative black supporters in the Cabinet Room at the White House, June 10, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

It was 16 weeks ago yesterday when Donald Trump boasted, in reference to the United States' coronavirus infections, "[W]hen you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."

After a tragically wrong claim like that one, it's tempting to think the president would've learned a valuable lesson from the experience. He clearly has not.

Gray TV's DC bureau chief Jacqueline Policastro said to Trump, "Coronavirus cases are rising in 22 states, including Oklahoma, where you plan to hold a big rally this week. Aren't you worried about people getting sick?" "No," Trump said, "because if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It's dying out."

There is no universe in which the president's claim is true. The virus numbers are not "very minuscule" -- neither nationally nor in Oklahoma -- and the idea that the crisis is "dying out" is contradicted by every possible metric.

And yet, Trump wants this to be true, so he's pretending it is true. The problem, of course, is not limited to the president's head-in-the-sand posture. As the New York Times reported today, "The federal government's leadership in the coronavirus crisis has so faded that state and local health officials have been left to figure out on their own how to handle rising infections and to navigate conflicting signals from the White House."

Despite the outbreaks, and the fact that some states are seeing their largest infection numbers to date, Trump isn't even trying to lead.

He is, however, trying to campaign. Despite an escalating public-health crisis in Oklahoma, Trump is shrugging off warnings and headed to an indoor rally in Tulsa on Saturday, where he'll appear before 19,000 followers -- who won't be required to wear masks or socially distance.

Local officials are right to be concerned.

Top officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said Wednesday that at-risk people should not attend President Donald Trump's rally as the city set a daily record for most new COVID-19 cases. Speaking to reporters, Mayor G.T. Bynum, a Republican, said it was a "tremendous honor" that the president would select the city to hold his first rally since the onset of the pandemic, but he said he could not give assurances that it would not lead to rapid transmission of the coronavirus.

The city's Republican mayor -- who will not be on hand for the event -- added that "any rational person" would have to be concerned about the presidential event.

NBC News' report added that Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa's health department, saw a record number of infections in his county this week. Dart also said "that the county began to record a marked increase in cases beginning early last week and that it had seen a significant increase in hospitalizations since June 6."

Basic concern for his supporters' wellbeing should give the president pause. As things stand, however, Trump's schedule remains unchanged.