As President Donald Trump gears up for his reelection campaign, one issue is clearly causing him some consternation: the seemingly unchecked spread of coronavirus throughout the United States under his watch.
Trump polls poorly on the matter, likely due to his contradictory views with most Americans on how to deal with the disease. While he has maintained in the past that easing social distancing rules and ending stay-at-home orders were necessary for growing the economy, 63 percent of voters actually prefer prioritizing efforts to quell the spread of COVID-19 over those economic concerns, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released earlier this month.
That same poll demonstrates that Trump’s overall approval rating is dipping, likely because of his mismanaging of the coronavirus pandemic. Just 39 percent say they approve of the job Trump has done as president, while 59 percent say they disapprove.
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With these numbers in mind, the White House and the Trump campaign both appear to be shifting their strategies for how to discuss the disease with the American people going forward. According to several officials that spoke to The Washington Post on the matter, the plan going forward appears to be, whether true or not, telling voters they can safely live with the disease running rampant in the months ahead.
The president will promote messaging that suggests Americans can “live with the virus being a threat,” according to one of those sources that spoke to the Post. Another source said that the administration will try to normalize the regularly changing record-high daily new cases of coronavirus being identified across the country in recent weeks.
“They’re of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day,” one former administration official familiar with Trump’s plans said.
The reporting from the Post appears to confirm a story published late last week by NBC News about the probable shift in messaging from the Trump administration and reelection campaign. That report detailed how the president will focus on highlighting therapeutic drugs and emphasizing how he views the disease as being low-risk to most Americans
Trump seemed to be pushing that narrative already on Saturday, one day after the NBC report was filed, when he claimed, without evidence, the overwhelming majority of those contracting COVID-19 aren’t being harmed by it.
“We have tested over 40 million people. But by so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless,” Trump said in a statement at the White House.
Yet, even while making that statement, the statistics seem to contradict Trump’s assertions. Some estimates say that as many as 15 to 20 percent of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 may require hospitalization, for example. The total number of deaths so far, too, represent about 4.5 percent of the total number of identified cases of COVID-19.
Even if one does believe Trump’s claims, however, there is evidence that even asymptomatic carriers of the virus could suffer some harm from it. One study published in Nature Medicine last month found that those testing positive for the coronavirus but presenting no symptoms may still develop signs of minor lung inflammation similar to what is seen in patients who exhibit symptoms of walking pneumonia. Further study is also needed to determine whether asymptomatic patients see more damage to their bodies in the future.
As of Monday at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time, nearly 2.9 million cases of COVID-19 were identified in the U.S, with nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to the disease.