Regardless of who wins the American presidential election, and the picture should be clear ~ legal challenges notwithstanding ~ by the time this comment is read, one thing is evident. States where Mr Donald Trump claims his support base, and some of which he won, are also the ones reporting the highest number of Covid positive cases as the United States set a new one-day record of 102,591 cases in a single day on Wednesday. Prominent among these states were Texas and Florida, both of which Mr Trump won, besides Illinois and California, where Mr Joe Biden was the winner.
Certainly, the bravado which the President has displayed would appear to have been infectious and many of his election rallies saw supporters violate public health guidelines on the use of masks and physical distancing. Epidemiologists had warned of a surge in cases after the sharply acrimonious campaign, which saw the handling of the epidemic by the Trump administration emerge as a major issue. Mr Trump was never defensive about the positions he took over the past few months, and sharply assailed experts like Dr Anthony Fauci for the warnings they had issued from time to time. The past few months have also seen the emergence of a legion of conspiracy theorists whose cumulative efforts have led to the suspension of basic, common-sense measures to tackle a malaise that has so far defied a cure.
Indeed, in the days leading up to the election, the American tally of fresh cases has grown steadily, reaching 100,000 for the first time on 30 October. Most of the new cases have been reported from the conservative Midwest, where Mr Trump holds sway with large swathes of the electorate. The campaign saw Mr Trump accuse doctors and medical professionals of seeking to profit from the disease, by falsely inflating numbers of Covid cases. This charge was widely condemned as a lie by many Americans, including doctors.
But the fact that the accusation was made by the President along with a claim that too much was being made of the disease to discredit him compelled committed supporters to throw caution to the winds. Add to this the increased public activity occasioned by the election, and Mr Trump’s exhortation to people to vote in person, instead of opting for mail-in votes, and the spike in numbers became predictable. Infectious diseases experts had warned that Mr Trump’s rallies were potential “superspreader” events and at least one study ~ by Stanford University ~ had estimated that the events had resulted in at least 30,000 infections.
Once the election dust settles, America will have the challenging task of reining in its Covid numbers and ensuring that sick people get the medical attention they need. Public health experts have warned that hospitalisations are once again going through the roof, and resources are stretched thin.