"I hope we don't run out of mobile morgues," is what epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding said in response to data demonstrating the out-of-control nature of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States—which became the first country to surpass 10 million Covid-19 infections and whose healthcare system is expected to be overwhelmed before President-elect Joe Biden assumes office.
Although Biden—who has created his own coronavirus task force—is trying to plan a coordinated federal response to the unrelenting public health and economic emergency he is set to inherit, President Donald Trump's refusal to authorize a smooth administrative transition amid what journalist David Dayen called a "completely stupid and brazen" effort to hold onto the White House is wreaking deadly havoc on the nation.
"It's absolutely infuriating that we're going to consign people to death and suffering because nobody in the White House or Congress can be bothered."
—David Dayen, journalist
"We're in an unbelievably dangerous moment with coronavirus where the full weight of government at all levels needs to be focused on saving lives," tweeted Dayen, "and instead Donald Trump is trying a ham-fisted theft of the election."
As Dayen wrote in The American Prospect on Wednesday, "the world's worst coup attempt... is going to get a lot of people killed."
"Every moment Donald Trump tries to steal the election is a moment that he's not paying any attention to the most harrowing moment of the coronavirus crisis," Dayen added.
Ohio has had an "unprecedented spike" in Covid-19 hospital admissions. ICU beds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are full. North Dakota's hospitals don't have enough doctors and nurses. And hospital administrators in Iowa are warning that they are approaching their limits.
The U.S. is heading for a "dark winter," a "Covid hell," the "darkest days of the pandemic." However you describe it, the next few months of the coronavirus pandemic will be unlike anything the nation has seen yet.
According to data from Johns Hopkins, the number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. increased by more than 136,000 between Tuesday and Wednesday, while over 1,420 Americans died from Covid-19 during that time period, bringing the death toll to roughly 240,000.
Feigl-Ding expects the U.S. "to hit 200,000 new cases per day by the end of November if we continue at this rate."
This is incredibly worrisome to public health officials because, as The Atlantic reported Tuesday, there is already a nationwide surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations, which are now at an all-time high.
"We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNBC.
"The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic," said Osterholm, who is a member of Biden's coronavirus advisory board.
As Feigl-Ding pointed out on social media, "deaths usually lag cases by about three weeks."
And "despite rhetoric offered by President Trump about a plunge in the deadliness of the virus, the link between new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths has been consistent for months," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Folks—with so many record highs, we are going to hit 200,000 new cases *per day* by the end of November if we continue at this rate. Deaths usually lag cases by ~3 weeks. I hope we don’t run out of mobile morgues and need more next month like El Paso sadly is now. #COVID19 https://t.co/4S4kDRgY4r
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 11, 2020
As Dayen put it, "The executive branch has completely checked out on any responsibility for this massive public health crisis at precisely the moment when the crisis is most acute."
Trump's sabotage of the presidential transition process is making everything worse. As Politico reported Tuesday, "the incoming administration [is] locked out of key health agencies" at the moment.
"The delayed start could ultimately set the Biden transition teams back by several days or weeks," Politico noted, "forcing them to turn an already-fraught process into an all-out sprint ahead of Inauguration Day."
Apart from attention to the election and its chaotic aftermath, Americans are also focused on the upcoming holiday season, which Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said creates "the potential for innumerable super-spreading events across the country" that could "introduce and reintroduce the virus to new areas and... further exacerbate community transmission."
"Pandemic fatigue has fully set in at the worst possible time," Dayen said.
Nonetheless, public health officials are still pushing for more people to wear masks, which they predict can prevent up to 130,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. through spring 2021.
Looking beyond masks, "we know exactly what to do here," which is what makes the federal government's inaction so frustrating, Dayen argued.
"If we just shut down these venues and pay them to stay closed we would get a shockingly large handle on the situation," Dayen pointed out. "Yet we've had absolutely no discussion of this in the highest levels, and no leadership in Washington looking seriously at this option."
"It's absolutely infuriating that we're going to consign people to death and suffering," he added, "because nobody in the White House or Congress can be bothered."