Laura Ingraham: At some point Trump needs to tell Fauci and Birx that we’re reopening on May 1

I’m enjoying this fantasy of Fauci and Birx as some sort of two-headed Rasputin that has our poor president in its thrall. It can’t be that Trump (who’s done the right thing in encouraging lockdowns, by the way) should take responsibility for the economic pain caused by the terrible choice he had to make in trying to contain the outbreak.

There must be a svengali who’s led him astray. Some egghead doctor or pair of doctors that can grasp the complexities of highly variable models of global pandemics but somehow can’t grasp that 20 million people being unemployed will take a severe human toll as well.

They need Trump, man of the people, to open their eyes to that.

You know what? I hope he takes her advice. Tomorrow, at the briefing, in front of a national audience, he should turn to them and say, “Tony? Deborah? We’re back in business on May 1. Let’s start planning.” See what happens on May 1 if new cases haven’t fallen off dramatically by then.

The problem with her analogy about climate change and vehicle ownership is that the average person isn’t going to make a major sacrifice to avert a threat that remains largely hypothetical via models. Florida would need to be underwater to get people to consider draconian action to limit global warming. The threat from COVID-19 isn’t hypothetical, it’s intimately personal. Go shopping right now and you might contract a bug that’ll kill you in three weeks. People will make major sacrifices to avoid that.

There are few questions in American politics that draw overwhelming bipartisan majorities but check out the numbers when people are asked their opinion of massive lockdowns. The economy is in ruins — and Americans are all but unanimous that it was the right call.

By a roughly 10-to-1 margin, Americans say states with stay-at-home orders are making the right call, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey conducted Friday and Saturday.

An 81% majority of the public says it’s currently the right decision for states to tell residents to stay at home unless they have an essential reason for going out. Just 8% say it’s the wrong decision. An even broader 89% say they are personally trying to stay home as much as possible, with only 6% saying they’re not making any such effort.

Throw open the doors to every business in America on May 1 and see what sort of crowds show up if doctors are on TV saying, “This is extremely dangerous.” Because odds are high right now that they will be.

President Donald Trump and other officials are boasting that the United States is now testing nearly 700,000 people each week for the coronavirus.

But that’s not enough to catch every case of the disease or to provide the kind of data needed to lift social distancing measures and allow people to go back to work. And because testing capacity remains inadequate, it’s unclear when we’ll get there.

Labs nationwide are overwhelmed by patient samples flooding in as they continue to face a shortage of critical supplies. A rapid test described by Trump in mid-March as a “game changer” that would soon be available in doctors offices is still hard to come by for many Americans.

And officials at some public and private labs are questioning the accuracy of new antibody tests that are designed to detect whether a person has ever been infected with the coronavirus — a crucial tool to understand the true scope of the U.S. outbreak.

All of that is supposed to be in place — along with a system of contact tracing — when America reopens for business so that health authorities can target local outbreaks quickly and isolate the people involved. Even in countries that do have sophisticated testing and surveillance measures in place, new outbreaks can still reemerge:

Nate Silver cautions that South Korea has also experienced some fluky days of an upswing in cases before quickly regaining control of their outbreak, so Singapore might not actually be facing a second wave. But the point is, without enough testing and surveillance, reopening on May 1 would simply put us back in the status quo circa February 15 or whatever. We’d be partially blind to new local outbreaks with no obvious way of slowing them down until they reached the point where a new lockdown was warranted.

What Trump should say at the briefing is, “Tony? Deborah? We need all of these containment measures in place soon so that we’re back in business on May 1. Let’s start planning.” But he doesn’t need to say it, since they already know that. Just like they also know it’s unrealistic to think we’ll be able to bring it all online in three weeks.

Ingraham knows all this. Fauci and Birx are the designated scapegoats right now because someone has to take the blame in lieu of Trump for the very real suffering American families are enduring and the usual suspects don’t fit the bill this time. Normally it’d be Democrats, but Democrats in Congress have practically no role in containing the epidemic. Their role is fiscal, and they’re forced by circumstance to partner with the White House. China could and should be blamed for what America is going through, but China’s role has limited salience as an election issue right now — and besides, Trump has spoken conspicuously softly about them lately. The obvious populist move is to blame the scientists, the experts who supposedly don’t care about what working-class people are sacrificing. Never mind that the working class would doubtless suffer more than the middle or upper classes if we went back to work before it was safe and an uncontrolled Sweden-style outbreak burned up the country.

I feel like Fauci and Birx do grasp the need not to let most of the country sink into desperate poverty. And so, they’re looking ahead to reopening too — eventually:

The dirty little secret about Fauci’s visibility lately is that he now commands enough of an audience nationally that Trump might struggle to convince even many Republicans that it’s safe to go back to work if Fauci didn’t endorse the idea. He’s followed a shrewd media strategy of appearing in unorthodox formats with big audiences like Barstool Sports’ podcast that Trump would never patronize in order to get the word out to as many cultural niches as possible that social distancing is essential. I don’t think that was a political decision; it was a straightforward recognition of reality that if you have an urgent message to the entire country, a “Fox & Friends” interview isn’t going to transmit it. The practical effect, though, is that he’s now sufficiently well known and trusted that if Trump demanded resumption of business in regions with fewer cases and the science brain trust in the White House, led by Fauci, couldn’t endorse it in good conscience, most Americans simply wouldn’t heed Trump’s request. And of course, because ultimately governors and mayors have authority over lockdowns, not the president, populous left-leaning states like New York and California would ignore Trump and follow their own health experts’ advice even if Fauci bit his tongue. All Trump can do, really, is lean on red-state governors to allow local businesses to take their chances in an economy that’s destined to be sluggish for many months, especially near-term.

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