America’s Tipping Point
The President made a show of his newfound commitment to mitigating the coronavirus outbreak, but if he fails to follow through, what then?
Is this the last weekend Americans will be able to move around freely for a while? It seems insane to suggest, but as one country after another in Europe moves toward restrictive lockdowns to contain the exponentially growing coronavirus pandemic, the probability has certainly increased.
What it may hinge on, sadly, is whether the Trump administration’s all-hands-on-deck press conference Friday afternoon was a real commitment or just a show.
After the spectacular failure of Wednesday night’s presidential address, Friday was something of a make-up call. The markets, both grocery and financial, listened to what the president had to say on Wednesday and responded with despair. But after the second conference, attitudes seemed to pick up.
The market rallied somewhat, as the President was all too eager to point out on Twitter. Even skeptical journalists were assuaged to a degree by the inclusion of non-Trumpian medical experts and business leaders. It finally seemed like there was a plan.
But not long after the meeting, a part of his plan — the website for triaging coronavirus tests nationwide — came under fire. Trump explained that 1,700 Google engineers were hard at work on a website that would tell sick people when and where they could get tested for coronavirus. It would go live by Sunday night for key areas affected by the virus, he said. He even had time to take a jab at President Obama, “Google is going to develop a website, it’s going to be quickly done, unlike websites of the past.”
Unfortunately for Trump, all it took was a call to Google to find out that, in fact, the company wasn’t aware it was making a website for coronavirus testing. Instead, a subsidiary of Google called Verily was in the process of testing a website for the Bay Area only. Hardly the model of private-sector innovation replacing government that the President sold it as.
And you could say, well, okay, he oversold the website — it’s not an outright lie. But why mention it, seemingly without Google’s prior knowledge? After all of the walk backs and inaccuracies of his Wednesday speech, why fib about anything when the stakes, physically, financially, and psychologically for Americans, are so high?
Trump has also promised that coronavirus tests would soon be produced in great numbers — upwards of a half-million by next week and then up into the millions in following weeks. What if that was an embellishment as well? What happens if come next Friday, tests are still nowhere to be found?
The stock market rallied with the President’s words on Friday. But his actions, or inaction, will dictate how bad this gets.
America is teetering on a fulcrum. Any disruption, any unexpected change, or missed commitment could send it tumbling over. What happens in the next week will dictate what Americans go through for the rest of the year. It could even alter the course of history.
It’s been raining all week in Southern California, and the forecast says it won’t let up for at least another. The schools are closed for two weeks and while it’s still the weekend, come Monday, everyone will be feeling the onset of cabin fever. There are no sports to watch, no movies to see, and going out increasingly feels like a mission to not get sick.
When the rain stopped for a few hours this morning, I jogged through my neighborhood, wondering if that would even be allowed under a full lockdown.
In my head, I imagined waiting until nightfall to go out and considered which streets I could use to avoid getting caught by patrols.