In the final remarks of his presidency Wednesday, former President Donald Trump only briefly mentioned what is perhaps the most defining issue of his term — the Covid-19 pandemic— referring to it as the “China virus” once again in a move indicative of his approach toward the deadly disease throughout the final months of his presidency, even as the U.S. marked over 400,000 dead from the virus.
Trump delivered his farewell address from the Joint Base Andrews and referenced Covid-19 just once, stating we have to “pay our respects” to those who “suffered so gravely from the China virus,” before finally acknowledging it was necessary to be “very, very careful.”
Despite Trump’s insistence that the media was focusing on the pandemic in the lead-up to the 2020 election solely to undermine his campaign, more than 172,500 Americans have been killed by the virus since Nov. 3, with over 100,000 of those fatalities coming in the past 36 days alone.
On Tuesday—Trump’s final full day in office—the U.S. reached another grim milestone as the confirmed coronavirus death toll topped 400,000.
Trump’s frequent downplaying, or downright dismal, of the virus has resulted in a great number of deaths “that could have been avoided,” according to medical experts. In early October, even after he had been infected and more than 210,000 lives had been extinguished by the virus, Trump tweeted, “don’t be afraid of Covid.” On October 27th, Trump tweeted that “until November 4th… all the Fake New media wants to talk about Covid, Covid, Covid,” adding that “we are rounding the turn.” The U.S., of course, was headed in the exact opposite direction; in fact, there have been far more coronavirus cases reported in the country since Election Day (14.7 million) than total cases reported over the first nine months of pandemic combined (9.6 million). In the days and weeks after the election, when the virus didn’t disappear, the president largely ignored it. Over the six-week stretch from Nov. 3 thru Dec. 16, Trump tweeted 729 times, and not once did he discuss Covid’s rising death toll. Of those 700+ plus tweets, nearly 70% were related to baseless voter fraud claims and his unlawful attempts to overturn the election results. According to reporter Dave Gilson, only 2% of his post-election tweets mentioned the coronavirus at all.
Trump admitted to reporter Bob Woodward in early February that he knew the coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu,” but continued to compare Covid-19 to the flu for weeks, claiming he “wanted to always play it down.” At a press briefing on Feb 26, the president told the American people that Covid-19 “is like a flu. It’s a little like a regular flu that we have flu shots for.” The following day, he said the virus is “going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”
“That’s all I hear about now. That’s all I hear. Turn on television—’Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’ A plane goes down. Five hundred people dead, they don’t talk about it,” Trump told his supporters at a campaign rally in Lumberton, North Carolina, on October 24th, two weeks before the election. “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’ By the way, on November 4, you won’t hear about it anymore.”
According to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the 400,000 fatalities due to Covid-19 is more deaths than the number of U.S. soldiers that died in battle during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.
1-in-820. With more than 400,000 lives lost, it means that the coronavirus has killed one in every 820 Americans.