Trump’s final wake of COVID death

President’s legacy could include more than half a million Americans dead

November 13, 2020 6:00 am

(Getty Images)

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell often refers to himself as the “grim reaper,” but it is President Trump who will have carried the scythe.

The hole that’s been dug is deep. In the still-warm afterglow of a consequential rebuke of repeated lies and general malfeasance, the now disgraced one-term president will hand over the reins — by force, if necessary — to President-elect Joe Biden. Many Americans are breathing a heavy sigh of relief, but rampant COVID-19 infections suggest an additional hundreds of thousands may soon struggle to breathe at all. And so begins America’s long, long road toward recovery.


Surely, Biden’s victory will blunt the hemorrhaging — a sort of political tourniquet applied by Americans after a Republican-controlled Senate refused to address four years of active bleeding. Yet as Trump refuses concession, thereby delaying presidential transition, experts remain shackled. What little transition may exist between the impeached president and the president-elect is expected to be rocky at best, with some calling it the “presidential transition from hell.” Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus lavishly ravages an unprepared nation with near complete prerogative, having already infected 10 million and killing over a quarter million. 

But if you think the last many months have been bad, brace yourself: According to recent projections, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

In Trump’s final months, as week after week of inaction and denial comes to fruition, experts now predict a ghastly 2,200 deaths per day in the United States by the New Year. With the lag between infection and death of COVID-19 typically ranging up to two months, we are projected to far surpass a half million deaths by the end of February — over double our current death tolls, and, in combination with recent reports, up to a staggering 340,000 unnecessary deaths in total. With inauguration day still an eerily distant 10 weeks away, every day Trump eschews a peaceful transition, the death count inches higher.

President Donald Trump leaves the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 2, 2020, in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for coronavirus. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In this likely scenario, by the time Biden assumes full power of the office, the viral spread will have proved almost impossible to halt on a dime. Trump’s pigheadedness during transition will stymie attempts at preventative measures, serving to increase the probability of continued resistance from his base even after he departs. Newspaper headlines could easily read of over a half million dead within weeks of Democrats residing in the White House, leading many to incorrectly attribute the worsening pandemic as a failure by both parties. Especially with hospital capacities overflowing, health professionals may once again be forced to deploy war-like triage to determine who lives and who dies, providing grim scenes and mounting public relations challenges for the new administration. Having reached a tipping point in feasible immediate contract tracing, a deadly cascade of infections will likely have been triggered throughout the winter, despite a cadre of experts working tirelessly to play whack-a-mole.

Adding insult to injury, a bumpy presidential transition is merely the prelude to what awaits Democrats in the Oval Office, including an eagerly stalwart Republican opposition in the U.S. Senate, an extremist U.S. Supreme Court and over 70 million Americans who voted to double-down on thwarting preventative measures under the guise of freedom — though I’ve still yet to meet a patient on a ventilator who feels free.

Make no mistake, the Republican Party will seize on this opportunity to mischaracterize the pandemic outcomes. Instead of owning their grave mistake in embracing a deadly traitor, they will attempt to slow progress and mar a new administration with the lingering onslaught of Trump’s COVID-19 deaths, falsely claiming the pandemic under Trump was bad, but offering skewed statistics as proof the Democrats are worse. Indeed, America’s failure is perhaps their only chance of success in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond — and if the inherent lag between COVID-19 infections and death are not well understood by voters, it just might work. 

Having crossed pivotal thresholds in 2020, voter expectations for recovery should remain toward that of the tortoise, not the hare. A Biden administration governed by expert recommendations will eventually right the course, but there’s no skirting the wake of death and destruction left by the Trump administration, even well beyond his departure from the White House.


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Trish Zornio
Trish Zornio

Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation's top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.