On the night before the country’s death toll from COVID-19 passed 200,000, President Trump told a rally in Ohio that the novel coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.”

He should meet Samantha Paine.

Paine, 48, has severe health problems that require around-the-clock care at a nursing home in Madison, where she has been allowed only a few limited visits since March, out of fear of what the virus would do to residents.

That fear turned out to be well founded. The virus found its way into the nursing home in August, causing at least 39 cases and six deaths.

Now Paine, who said she hasn’t hugged her family in six months and is prohibited from going out at all, is also mourning the loss of one of her friends, a woman, Paine said, who “lived to joke and be sarcastic.”

“I’m scared, angry, heartbroken and confused,” Paine told Taylor Abbott of the Morning Sentinel. “The confinement is lonely.”

Each of the deaths, all 200,000 and counting, has ended someone’s life unnecessarily early. And each has left behind people like Paine mourning for the death of someone they cared about.

And, like Paine, too, many more are suffering in ways that don’t show up in the death toll.

There are those who are lonely and isolated, having lost day-to-day interactions with friends, acquaintances and strangers.

There are those who lost businesses or jobs, with unemployment higher than at any point during the Great Recession. Many of them now face growing hunger and looming evictions.

There are students struggling with remote learning, and with being away from their friends and classmates. There are teachers putting themselves at risk so that their students can come to class.

There are millions of health care workers who worked through a pandemic without adequate protective gear, and millions more low-wage workers who were never given a day off even when it was clear they were in danger.

And there are all those Americans with “mild” cases of COVID-19 who will endure months of illness, maybe more, with varying and unpredictable symptoms that lower greatly their quality of life.

All of these Americans, and more, have been affected by COVID-19, in no small part because President Trump has refused to do much of anything about it.

The president has downplayed the seriousness of the virus from the beginning, even though he knew how deadly and contagious it is. He refused, and continues to refuse, to put the full power of the federal government behind the COVID-19 response, allowing a shortage of protective gear that somehow is still going on months into the pandemic.

And at every turn, he has contradicted the advice of public health experts and his own administration, pushing Americans to resume activities before it was safe to do so, leading to outbreaks that have caused deaths and only lengthened the time we all must spend under restrictions.

In March, when there had been 37 U.S. deaths from COVID-19, President Trump said, “It will go away.”

Now, more Americans have died from the coronavirus than who died in World War I and the Vietnam War combined. It’s equal to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. With just 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. has 21% of the deaths from COVID-19.

And new cases are rising again as the country heads into winter. Tens of thousands more Americans could be killed by the virus by the end of the year.

The president could take actions today that would save a lot of those lives, and limit a lot of the suffering caused by COVID-19.

But he won’t. While Americans endure a historic crisis, the president can’t even bring himself to acknowledge it.


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