Last Tuesday, the American state of Arizona recorded its single highest day of new coronavirus cases with 3600 infections added to its tally of more than 55,000.
Twenty-four hours later, Donald Trump appeared in the capital Phoenix at a rally of conservative university students and, of Covid-19, declared: “It’s going away.”
A few days earlier in an interview with right wing commentator Sean Hannity, the president bristled when asked about the pandemic.
“I don’t even like to talk about that because it’s fading away,” Trump said. “It’s going to fade away.”
On multiple occasions when discussing the global race for a vaccine, he has bluntly said that it doesn’t really matter if scientists succeed.
“Even without it, it goes away,” he said earlier this month.
“If we don’t (develop a vaccine), it’s going to be like so many other cases where you have a problem come in (and then) it’ll go away. At some point, it’ll go away.”
Those are just a handful of countless examples of the president downplaying matters.
Since the very beginning of the crisis, as nations around the globe began shutting down, beefing up their emergency healthcare capabilities and encouraged social responsibility, Trump was insisting it was no big deal.
“It’ll be gone by April,” he famously said.
Covid-19 wasn’t gone by April, of course, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.
This weekend, the number of people globally to have contracted coronavirus will hit 10 million – and almost 2.5 million of them are in America, where 122,000 are dead.
That puts the US in an unenviable leading position with both the highest number of cases and the largest death toll.
Supporters of Trump try to hose down the severity of the situation and the apparent failings of his response to it.
They say that many deaths are wrongly categorised as being due to Covid-19 – old age and comorbidities are important to consider. They say the high cases are thanks to rigorous testing.
But the reality is that the actual number of infections is likely closer to 20 million, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said.
And measures on deaths across the country are higher than average this year.
In seven states alone, mortality rates were 50 per cent greater than the running average over a five-week period in March and April, when Covid-19 was taking full swing.
But Trump continues to insist that both everything is fine and authorities are doing a good job, when there’s little evidence to suggest either.
Whether optimism or naivety, the repeated mistruths risk eroding further how seriously the American public take the pandemic and the effectiveness of public health orders.
Although, in many cases the damage has been done.
The president’s repeated refusal to wear a face mask at public engagements, coupled with his criticism and mocking of those who do – telling a reporter he was pandering to political correctness for donning one, for example – has weaponised a piece of fabric.
Almost daily, vision is emerging of scuffles breaking out on the street and in supermarket aisles between two bitterly opposed sides: wearers and non-wearers.
In the most 2020 scenario possible, the issue of whether to cover your mouth and nose to reduce your chance of contracting a deadly disease is now a matter of liberty, not public health.
Defying strict lockdown measures – which epidemiology, history and common sense tell us are effective in slowing the spread of infectious diseases – is also now a badge of honour for some.
But with the president having urged the reopening of the country since early April, barely weeks into the emergency, it’s hardly surprising.
Texas has abruptly paused its plan to ease restrictions due to a sharp increase in infections and acute hospitalisations. The state is now at the epicentre of a major flare-up.
The city of Tulsa in Oklahoma on Thursday recorded its largest spike of Covid-19 cases in a single day, but authorities said it’s too soon to attribute blame to a rally held by Trump.
The president rolled into town last weekend for a much-touted Make America Great Again rally, as part of his bid for re-election, despite pleas from some health officials to cancel it.
The White House brushed off concerns related to holding a mass public gathering in the midst of coronavirus, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisting the risk was low.
Although, attendees had to sign waivers before entering so they couldn’t sue if they became sick as a result.
Eight of the president’s staff who travelled to Tulsa have now tested positive, with a number of others in isolation. Two secret service officers also contracted the virus.
And for what?
Trump’s eagerness to rush out of the pandemic before it has even shown the worst of itself is motivated by two things.
Firstly, there’s no doubt the American economy is struggling and beginning the long journey back to some kind of normal would help.
Talking about the country’s handling of the pandemic will help reassure people that a new normal is just around the corner, and to hang in there.
And secondly, with an election just months away, getting back out on the road and in front of people is in Trump’s best interest. A cynic who’s watched the president for years might be inclined to conclude that that’s the real priority …
Regardless, bald-faced mistruths that defy all logic will only give people the wrong impression that the threat has passed.
It will lead to greater and more deaths.
That’s quite a price to pay for a few ego-building campaign rallies.