As coronavirus cases continue to surge throughout the country, and the White House struggles to stem the spread of COVID-19 behind its own doors, President Donald Trump is doubling down on his divisive rhetoric on the virus by pushing the idea that the pandemic itself is being overblown by the media.
More than 83,000 positive coronavirus diagnoses were announced in the U.S. on Friday, the highest single-day total in the country since the pandemic began. With just eight days to go before Election Day, Trump continued to push a consistently debunked lie to explain the high positivity rate.
“Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST,” Trump tweeted out on Monday morning, adding that he viewed the new numbers as “a Fake News Media Conspiracy.”
Trump further suggested that “on November 4th, [the] topic will totally change,” alluding to a conspiracy pushed by his son, Eric Trump, earlier this year which maintains that the virus is being used by the media and Democrats to hurt the president politically.
The idea that more testing explains why there are more cases of coronavirus in the country has been widely debunked for months. The president made similar claims over the summer, but statisticians ran the numbers then and found Trump’s claims to be utterly untrue. They remain untrue today.
In a second tweet on Monday, Trump again downplayed the significance of higher COVID-19 testing numbers, continuing his attacks on the media.
“The Fake News Media is riding COVID, COVID, COVID, all the way to the Election. Losers!” Trump wrote.
Making such brazen comments about the pandemic, however, is not likely to help Trump for the remainder of the campaign. Several polls suggest that a majority of American voters take coronavirus very seriously. The president’s response to the pandemic has also garnered him a bad grade from voters, with 59 percent of respondents in a Reuters/Ipsos poll from earlier this month stating they disapprove of his handling of the crisis.
Trump’s remarks on coronavirus in the days leading up to November 3 are being echoed by his aides in the White House. On Sunday, during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, suggested that the administration’s plans for dealing with coronavirus is to simply give up, at least until a vaccine can be developed.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic, we are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations,” Meadows said.
Such comments are congruent with the White House’s shift in recent weeks toward embracing “herd immunity,” a controversial idea that posits the virus will cease being a threat after enough of the population has developed antibodies to it in a “natural” way. Such a strategy, however, will likely result in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, if not more. Experts largely agree that Americans need to continue wearing masks and social distancing in order to quell the spread of the virus.
With coronavirus cases continuing to climb, the White House itself is witnessing yet another outbreak develop behind its doors. At least five members of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff have tested positive for coronavirus since last Friday, including Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short.
Morale in Pence’s office appears to be low, according to one source who spoke to CNN, and staff are reportedly “scared” that the virus could spread even further among them.