President Donald Trump isn’t leading America much as its pandemic worsens. But that’s not stopping Walmart — along with Kroger, Kohl’s, and city and state leaders and officials — from making the tough decisions that the President has shirked.
Given Trump’s approach, if the country is to exit the building disaster without many more thousands dead, it will fall to governors, mayors, college presidents and school principals, teachers and grocery store managers to execute plans balancing public health with the need for life to go on.
There were growing indications Wednesday that such centers of authority across the country are no longer waiting for cues from an indifferent President whose aggressive opening strategy has been discredited by a tsunami of infections and whose poll numbers are crashing as a result.
More school districts — in Houston and San Francisco, for example — are defying the President’s demand for all kids to go back to class in the fall.
Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed an executive order to delay opening schools until after Labor Day. Alabama, perhaps the most pro-Trump state in the nation, introduced mask-wearing requirements for public places on Wednesday. Montana issued its own recommendation on masks. Massive retail chains Walmart, Kohl’s and Kroger will require shoppers to wear masks in the coming days, confirming an emerging national consensus that face coverings — far from being an infringement of freedom — could be a lifesaver.
The Republican governor of Maryland criticized Trump’s leadership during the pandemic in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday, saying “it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death.”
Governors “went their own way,” Gov. Larry Hogan wrote. “Which is how the United States ended up with such a patchwork response.”
One of the NFL’s most storied franchises, the Green Bay Packers, will play the preseason without fans. Even Trump’s frequent protector, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, broke with the President’s magical thinking as he stumped through his increasingly afflicted home state of Kentucky. McConnell said that while “there were some that hoped” the coronavirus will go away, it isn’t.
After five months, more than 137,000 US deaths and some 3.5 million infections, the country is at another turning point in the most severe national challenge since World War II. More and more states and local leaders, after seeing the result of premature openings that ignored scientific advice, appear to be moving toward the painful steps needed to get the virus under control.
Those jurisdictions that did succeed in getting the pandemic under control — such as metropolitan areas around Washington, DC — are now beginning to face yet another test: enforcing social distancing and mask wearing as cases tick up after slow openings.
The latest Quinnipiac University survey shows Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 15 points, a deficit that might help explain the bizarre series of attacks the President leveled at his rival during Tuesday’s news conference and the shake-up in his campaign leadership on Wednesday led by his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.