By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The coronavirus pandemic continued to set records across the U.S. on Wednesday, even as the administration of President Donald Trump touted its first-term accomplishments in a news release that suggested it had ended the crisis that has cost more than 226,000 American lives and shows no signs of abating.
The U.S. has counted a record 500,000 new infections in the past week, according to the New York Times, as 20 states, including Illinois, recorded their highest seven-day averages since the start of the outbreak.
The Midwest and Mountain West are in precarious positions with hospitals rapidly filling. Three states, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, suffered record seven-day averages for fatalities, the Times reported, while Oklahoma and Wyoming set records for most deaths in a single day.
The White House in a press release wrote “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC” in bold capitalized letters as one of the administration’s achievements during Trump’s first term.
‘There is no metric that points to the U.S. being anywhere close to ending the pandemic; actually, we are trending in all the wrong directions and are in the middle of a coronavirus storm. Downplaying the virus is really dangerous, because letting down our guard enables the virus to spread much more.’
Dr. Leana Wen, George Washington University School of Public Health
“This is wishful thinking, not the truth,” Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University School of Public Health, told MarketWatch.
“There is no metric that points to the U.S. being anywhere close to ending the pandemic; actually, we are trending in all the wrong directions and are in the middle of a coronavirus storm. Downplaying the virus is really dangerous, because letting down our guard enables the virus to spread much more.”
Others said members of the White House task force created to manage the pandemic response that is led by Vice President Mike Pence and includes leading infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and, as coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx are angry about the claim, coming as the U.S. is still in the throes of a crisis that has killed more Americans than died in combat in World War I and World War II combined.
Trump continued to hold campaign rallies against the advice of his own health experts, and freezing weather at a rally in Omaha late Tuesday caused mayhem for some of the roughly 6,000 people who attended, according to media reports.
The campaign had promised buses to transport supporters from Eppley Airfield to car parks some distance away, but buses were unable to navigate busy airport roads, the Washington Post reported.
Supporters were gathered in close quarters for the rally, and many were seen in video footage not wearing face masks, the public safety measure that experts say is key to containing spread. Trump has occasionally said he has “no problem” with masks but recently has mostly jeered his presidential rival, Democrat Joe Biden, for wearing one and has encouraged anti-mask protests.
A new study this week found that a national face-mask mandate could significantly reduce COVID-19 deaths in the next few months, as flu season arrives and as people tend to gather more indoors. Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimate that a mask mandate could save nearly 130,000 lives by February 2021, MarketWatch’s Elisabeth Buchwald reported. The study was published in Nature Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal.
“I find it misleading to attribute political purposes to the work of science, and, in doing so, this has caused uncertainty amongst citizens, which has really made the COVID-19 pandemic have a much greater adverse impact,” Dr. Louis Sullivan, founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and the first African-American secretary of health and human services to serve under a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, told MarketWatch in an interview.
The rising global case tallies spooked financial markets, with the Dow Jones Industrial /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.06% down more than 800 points on Wednesday, and the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.00% down nearly 3%, turning negative for the month.
In other news:
• There were more than 500,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded worldwide on Tuesday, a record, according to Agence France-Presse. The total was 516,898 cases and 7,723 fatalities, according to an AFP tally.
• European countries set a series of records on Tuesday, and World Health Organization’s head of emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan, warned this week that Europe has again become the epicenter. “Right now we are well behind this virus in Europe, so getting ahead of it is going to take some serious acceleration in what we do and maybe much more comprehensive nature of measures that are going to be needed,” he said. The latest records reported by the Guardian include: Poland with 18,820 new cases, the Czech Republic with 15,663 new infections, Germany with 14,964 infections, Switzerland with 8,616 new infections, Slovenia with 2,605 new infections, Russia with a record 346 deaths and 16,202 new cases, and Ukraine with 165 deaths and 7,474 new cases.
• Germany and France were both set to announce new lockdowns as both countries grapple with surges in new cases. French President Emmanuel Macron slated to address the nation later Wednesday and to announce a one-month lockdown, Reuters reported, citing news channel BFM TV. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to meet state leaders on a conference call to discuss closing restaurants and bars, while keeping schools open, and allowing people to go out in public only with members of their own households, the Associated Press reported.
• Peter Piot, a virologist and head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Wednesday the virus is resurging because “we relaxed too much.” Speaking at a press briefing along with European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, whom he is advising, said the new infections coming after initial success in containing the pandemic in summer show “how fragile these gains are.”
“We kind of relaxed too much the measures that are basically about behavior, and we are paying a high price … and also we have learned there are no silver bullets. I wish there were,” he said. Piot contracted COVID-19 himself and suffered from exhaustion for months.