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Is Donald Trump pro-COVID enough for the GOP base?

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As both eye the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, American’s most sociopathic governor is betting that Trump isn’t:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said one of his biggest regrets in office was not speaking out “much louder” in March 2020, when former President Donald Trump advised the nation to stay home to slow the fast-spreading coronavirus.

DeSantis, a close ally of Trump, said he was involved in the early days of the White House’s pandemic response and had been offering advice to the President. But he was surprised when Trump made the decision that led to much of the US economy shutting down.

“I never thought in February, early March, that (coronavirus) would lead to locking down the country,” the Republican governor told the hosts of the conservative podcast “Ruthless” during an episode recorded Thursday. “I just didn’t. I didn’t think that was on the radar.”

DeSantis blamed “people like” Dr. Anthony Fauci for advising Trump to consider a shutdown. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, was part of a coronavirus response team that was led by Vice President Mike Pence and included other public health experts. But the decision was Trump’s to make, and DeSantis ultimately followed the White House’s lead, closing Florida schools, government buildings, gyms, bars and restaurant dining rooms and advising Floridians to stay home.

It’s not the first time DeSantis has second-guessed actions taken by the Trump administration to slow the spread of the virus. In November, DeSantis questioned whether banning flights from China, the epicenter of the initial outbreak, was effective.

“I was probably the first governor in January of 2020 to call for travel restrictions from China. I supported President Trump when he did that,” DeSantis said. “But we have to take a step back and acknowledge that those travel restrictions just didn’t work.”

Trump considers the ban on Chinese travel one of the signature decision points of his pandemic response, and he kept it in place through the end of his presidency.

DeSantis’ remark Thursday follows reports that Trump has privately grumbled about the lack of fealty from his former protege. In conversations with allies, previously reported by CNN, Trump has expressed displeasure that DeSantis, one of the Republican Party’s most-talked about leaders, has declined to publicly rule out a 2024 presidential bid if Trump seeks another four-year term.

Indeed, days before DeSantis’ podcast appearance, Trump seemed to call out the Republican governor during an interview released Tuesday night. Trump described politicians who won’t say if they received a coronavirus booster shot are “gutless.” The quip was viewed as a thinly veiled knock on DeSantis, who declined to share his vaccination status during a widely shared December interview with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo.

“I watched a couple politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get a booster?’ Because they had the vaccine and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it, because they’re gutless,” Trump told OAN.

Der Treue Heinrich!

Although watching Trump tweak DeSantis for his cowardice is amusing, DeSantis is undoubtedly correct that a very large portion of the GOP base — indeed quite possibly the majority of people who vote in GOP primaries — are aggressively opposed to any COVID mitigation measures, including getting vaccinated. In other words, GOP voters are increasingly not merely opposed to vaccine mandates, vaccine nudges, vaccine PSAs etc.: they are actively opposed to anyone getting vaccinated, period, because [insert insane conspiratorial gibberish here].

Although tomorrow is a long time, it’s quite possible that being in favor of people getting vaccinated for COVID will be an unacceptable position for a GOP presidential candidate to hold, especially if the pandemic is more or less over two years from now, and we’re in the much-anticipated endemic state of affairs in regard to the virus and its endless variants.

Now of course this might not end up being a problem for Trump, since we’re talking about a literal cult of personality, which means that he can eventually come out and claim he was always opposed to real Americans, including himself, getting vaccinated, and it will turn out that Oceania was always at war with EastAsia. Relatedly, I doubt that Trump’s tweaking of DeSantis is strategic in any real sense: he as always is just saying whatever he can say at the moment that will cause him the maximum pleasure and other people the maximum pain, like any other florid psychopath.

. . . I think commenter Uncarved Block 2 has the right take on this issue:

I don’t think Trump will change his position on the vaccine, because it’s tied to his ego, as pointed out by several here. I also don’t believe it will make a difference. Not because there isn’t a cult of personality around him but because of the nature of that cult. It has always been possible to be Trumpy without agreeing with everything he said or did, because, simply put, he was an excuse, not a reason for the MAGA movement. For the most current example, the Big Lie about 2020 is the latest version of the kind of disenfranchising that has been going on at the state level for over a decade, where Republicans could get away with it. Limiting the power of governors, removing the ability to get anything done while Dems are in power- all this because they believe the other side is totally illegitimate, and cheating to boot. Trump just threw a national face on it, but the beliefs have been building for a long time.

Back in what can loosely be termed reality, here are some striking statistics regarding the relation between diagnosed COVID cases and COVID fatalities. Note that these data come with huge numbers of caveats, in that the pervasiveness of testing has changed enormously over the course of the pandemic: in particular, official case numbers from the spring of 2020 are not really comparable at all to current case numbers.

Nevertheless, the entire range of these numbers over the last two years give us some sense of what has been accomplished in terms of avoiding an even bigger COVID calamity, primarily by fully — meaning at least two doses — vaccinating three quarters of the adult population, by improved treatments for COVID, and to a lesser extent by attempts to mitigate the spread of the disease, especially early on.

Seven-day moving average of official COVID cases, seven-day moving average of COVID deaths 14 days later, and the percentage of the former represented by the latter:

1/1/22. 444K

1/14/22. 1,829

0.4%

09/01/2021:  167K

09/14/2021:  1,929

1.2%

1/12/2021: 255K

1/26/21: 3,482

1.4%

04/07/20:  32K

04/21/20: 2,279

7.1%

Note that comparing the current numbers to the numbers from the crest of last fall’s waves reflects how the Omicron variant appears to be very roughly about one third as deadly as the Delta variant, although again these data are extremely approximate (It would be no surprise if 444.000 official cases per day reflects several million actual cases per day, given that home testing is generally not reflected in the official case numbers, many people with symptoms aren’t getting tested at all, and there are a lot of asymptomatic cases of Omicron).

But the biggest moving variable here of course is the vaccines. The astounding 7.1% case fatality rate from the spring of 2020, even subject to all the data caveats above, gives us some sense of what we could be looking at now if we had an unvaccinated population engaged in, as is currently the case almost everywhere in the USA, only the mildest and most inconsistent mitigation measures.

Even with three quarters of the adult population vaccinated, it’s quite likely that more than one million Americans have already died of COVID (the official total is 845,000 but this is certainly a significant undercount), while an average of nearly 2,000 more are dying every day — a number that is likely to double by the end of the month before the Omicron wave breaks, given current infection rates.

It’s worth emphasizing that, to the Republican base, none of this is real. It’s all fake news: COVID doesn’t even exist, and all the people dying of COVID are old and fat and dying anyway, and also too COVID is a deadly bioweapon created by the Chinese with the help of (((globalist))) financiers. (BTW is Fauci Jewish yet? I assume he is, or will be soon, despite the inconvenient name. That of course is not his real name).

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