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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

What do you get if you take people who enjoy how white privilege gives them advantages in society, how male privilege lets men dictate the lives of women, and how social privilege buffers the wealthy from economic misfortunes that beset millions of Americans? The Republican Party. And at the top of the Republican Party is a reliable layer of wealth, white males whose privilege on top of privilege on top of privilege has left them so isolated that their empathy muscles have atrophied away to dust.

Take Chris Christie. In addition to being the man who famously thought it would be hilarious to punish thousands of commuters to demonstrate his power over a local mayor, the most recent appearance of Christie in the news came following questions over whether he encouraged Donald Trump to try and make Joe Biden stutter. Then he got sick. Now, after spending a solid week in the ICU, Christie has been gifted an epiphany: COVID-19 is bad.It might seem that having 220,000 Americans die—including 16,300 in New Jersey—would be enough of a signal that COVID-19 was serious business and every step should be taken to avoid catching it or spreading it to others. But there's that empathy problem again: For guys like Christie, it's not an issue until it happens to them.

So on September 26, as Trump was rolling out Amy Coney Barrett to a superspreader event featuring over 100 Republican "stars," Christie was right there, walking around without a mask, shaking hands, getting in people's faces, and sucking down coronavirus. Inside and outside on that day, Christie seemed to operate with the same general disdain for the disease that Trump and his followers have demonstrated both before and after that day. That was, as Christie now admits, a bad idea.

In a statement to The New York Times Christie wrote, "I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team." And Christie goes on to write, "I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow C.D.C. guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others."

It would be nice if part of his next debate prep for Trump included having him repeat that message, because on Thursday night, Trump once against refused to say that he had been wrong about not insisting on masks and explained that "85% of people who wear masks catch coronavirus." When NBC host Savannah Guthrie attempted to correct him, Trump steamed on, saying, "That's what I heard and that's what I saw."

Actually, the 85 percent survey comes from a questionnaire in which patients who have contracted COVID-19 were asked about their habits. And 85 percent said that they "always" or "usually" wore a mask in social distancing situations. But then … what are they going to say? Any other box on the form might as well be labeled "Nope, I got this disease through my own foolishness or by following the example set by Donald Trump."

How effective is wearing a mask in real life? Winding back the clock to early summer, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey enthusiastically threw off social distancing guidelines and became one of the most vocal supporters of Trump's calls to "reopen" everything. When cities and counties in his state issued mask mandates, Ducey even issued a order blocking all such regulations. Which is how by early June, Arizona has sailed to the top of the charts on new COVID-19 cases. As hospitals filled and death rates raced up, local officials begged Ducey to relent.

Finally, on June 18, after weeks of refusing to issue a mandate, Ducey relented and allowed local authorities to create mandates in their areas. Which they did. So how is that going? As Arizona Central reports, the rate of COVID-19 zoomed up after Ducey removed restrictions at the end of May. But for those areas that implemented mask mandates, new cases of COVID-19 fall 75% in the following six weeks. That number is almost perfectly in line with what experts have predicted if there was a general mandate to wear masks.

Christie, who received both first-rate care and yet another of those experimental monoclonal antibody "cocktails" unavailable to normal COVID-19 patients, is now feeling better. But if he wants to show that he's actually grown a heart at least one grinch-size larger, he needs to convince Trump to issue a national mask mandate.

Friday, Oct 16, 2020 · 1:08:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time · Mark Sumner

From a Christie statement released on Friday.

"No matter what you're doing, you should have a mask on and you should try to remain socially distant from folks. I did it for seven months and I stayed healthy. I didn't do it for four days and I wound up in the ICU."

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.