All too often, when people try to crunch the numbers from the coronavirus pandemic, they look at the percentage of people being infected and make the mistake of concluding that it isn’t anything to worry about. However, they have done so even in the face of mounting evidence of how deadly this virus can get. The latest person to fall into this trap is Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s original White House press secretary.
Fleischer was one of many establishment Republicans who shied away from Donald Trump in 2016, even going as far as to leave his presidential ballot blank. He has become slightly more supportive of Trump from his perch as a Fox News contributor, but hasn’t made the leap from never-Trumper to Trump loyalist, as have the likes of Lindsey Graham and Glenn Beck. For instance, when Trump held an indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada in defiance of warnings from state officials, Fleischer was being kind in calling the move “irresponsible” and “a bad idea.”
But Ari seemed to be singing a different tune on Thursday afternoon, when addressing concerns about voting in person during the pandemic. With many people opting to vote by mail or vote early, Fleischer seemed to suggest that those worrying about catching the virus are making a fuss over nothing.
Um, Ari? You miss the point. Yes, it’s true that the percentage of positive tests compared to those who voted in person is a relatively small figure. But you forget that the people who tested positive on Election Day, as well as those who tested positive two weeks later, aren’t the only ones who are potentially in the woods.
Earlier this spring, Vox put together a video that shows just how deadly coronavirus can get.
The basic measure for how contagious a virus can get is its basic reproduction number, or R0. We have enough information about coronavirus to know that at the very least, its R0 is anywhere from 2 to 2.5–double that of the flu’s 1.3. That may not seem like much of a difference. But consider what happens after ten rounds. One person with the flu can ultimately get 56 people sick, but one person with coronavirus can ultimately get over 2,000 people sick.
Apparently Fleischer has forgotten the reason some 95 percent of the country was ordered to stay at home for parts of two months. No health care system can withstand a virus that infects people at this rate when there is no vaccine for it. That’s the same reason many states still have strict limits on how many people can gather together, and why bars, nightclubs and movie theaters still remain closed in much of the country.
So think about it, Ari. Sure, only 356 people tested positive on Election Day in Massachusetts, and only 313 people tested positive two weeks later. But those people could potentially infect others around them–often without even knowing it. That’s why many people are either voting by mail or voting early. They aren’t willing to risk standing in line at close quarters, especially if they have to do so for hours on end.
Fleischer, like he did fairly often during his time in the White House, has missed the point and badly. The fact that he fired off this tweet so soon after criticizing Trump’s super-spreader rally in Nevada makes it all the more bewildering.
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