Why Fixate on Facts – or ‘Facts’

The Corona Virus Task Force has done its job and the new projections of virus death tolls are so high because they assume no further mitigation efforts. Facts?

Who are we to question high officials? Why does anyone question anything? Profound questions – about questions – which probably relate somehow to survival of the species.

And how about faith and scepticism? At what point in our lives do we learn to be sceptical, before or after we decide to be reporters? Or before we become Republicans or Democrats? When does scepticism lapse into denial? And is denial self-destructive? Why this fixation with facts? Which channel should we cancel, Fox or CNN?

So an Axios/Ipsos poll finds Democrats suspect virus fatalities are being undercounted. Republicans generally think they are overcounted. The poll is a day old but we’ll exhume this ancient information for the sake of illustration. Without regard to party affiliation 44%, the poll suggests, believe more Americans are dying than officially reported. Only 23% believe there are fewer people dying of the virus than reported.

The number of people who believe what they hear and read is correct is a resounding 32%. Count the other two-thirds of the population as sceptical. Or maybe they’re just believers in opposites.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said more than a few times in his daily virus briefings, you’re entitled to your opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts. Maybe that was true when Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it for the first time decades ago. Now people seem to be a lot more wedded to their opinions – and their scepticism, and their beliefs – and don’t necessarily question their own “facts.”

Moynihan and Cuomo. Two Democrats. We know about them. Just listen to President Trump, whom 82% of Republicans, incidentally, believe is doing a good job on the pandemic. “The Democrats should be ashamed because they don’t want us to succeed,” the president told reporters bunched together at the ropeline as he left for Arizona Tuesday morning. “They want us to fail so they can win an election, which they’re not going to win.”

Those Democrats will apparently stop at nothing. “Think of it. They do everything they can to make things as bad as possible,” he continued. “And, right now, the stock market is way up.  Everybody is excited.  They’re going back to work safely, but they’re going back to work.”

The president was just warming up. Asked why he is not letting Task Force expert Tony Fauci appear before a House subcommittee Wednesday he disregarded all those explanations given previously by White House officials and told it as he saw it.  “Because the House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters,” the Republican president answered about the Democratic House. “They, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death, which means death, and our situation is going to be very successful.”

Are there any facts in there? It’s politics, you might say. What does politics have to do with facts? When the president said that the new higher projections of deaths unveiled Monday – not by the White House – were based on an assumption there would be no further attempts to slow down the virus, was that politics too? “That’s a report with no mitigation,” the president said.

Actually the report by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation considered less mitigation, not no mitigation. It said the midpoint of projected deaths is more than 134,000 by August, higher because of all the states relaxing the limits on social gathering. The top of that range, 243,000.

The separate leaked internal draft report by FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control said the death toll will build to around 3,000 a day by June. It was also based on all the states reopening before doing the testing or seeing the downward trend White House guidelines specify.

When several hours later the president repeated what seems to be an erroneous observation, on the ABC nightly news, he wasn’t challenged. “Those models that you’re mentioning are talking about without mitigation,” Trump said. “Well, we’re mitigating and we’ve learned to mitigate but we can be in the working place and also mitigate.”

If the death toll keeps rising, just as the new virus cases nationwide have kept rising between 2% and 4% a day, is that the time to stop the Corona Virus Task Force briefings and phase out the Task Force itself? “We’ll have something in a different form,” Trump told reporters after landing in Arizona. “We’re looking at phase two.”

The head of the Task Force, Vice President Mike Pence, told reporters Tuesday, “I think we’re having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the Task Force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level.”

It was reported that other members of the Task Force had not been told beforehand their group is being downgraded.

As GovernorCuomo said Tuesday, the 230 state fatalities in the latest 24 hours is a continuing tragedy but a number that is improving, along with the trend in hospitalisations and new cases. Are there states where the situation is different? Those states that on Tuesday had a rate of new infections still going up included Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Kansas, – and 10 more.

When do facts become so fluid and hard to pin down that they’re not even worth talking about any more?

Once again, President Trump explained, saying on the evening’s ABC newscast, “I want to be optimistic. I don’t want to be Mr. Gloom and Doom. It’s a very bad subject. I’m not looking to tell the American people when nobody really knows what’s happening yet, ‘Oh this is going to be so tragic’. Aside from everything else – and I’m going to use a term – and some people love it and some people hate it but I love it – I want to be a cheerleader for our country.”

And that’s a fact.



Colin Lambert

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