Two weeks after Donald Trump’s indoor Tulsa rally, the area saw record numbers of COVID-19 cases, with daily case counts more than double the area’s previous record and outstripping other areas of the state. Contact tracing in Oklahoma isn’t what it is in Maine, but, as a public health official said, “I guess we just connect the dots.”
That’s not the only case where some dot-connecting is required due to too many big gatherings and inadequate contact tracing. Experts say the estimate of more than 250,000 COVID-19 cases resulting from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is seriously overblown, but that the event did cause a spike in cases in the surrounding area and may have caused more cases elsewhere. Again, this is where the lack of contact tracing in the U.S. is a benefit for Republicans who want to pretend actions don’t have consequences and a problem for public health. There’s so much we don’t know—because of the failures of our leadership.
A handful of famous cases—the Skagit Valley Chorale; the Albany, Georgia, funeral; the South Korean superspreader who inflated that country’s early outbreak; the Biogen conference—show the dire possibilities for large gatherings of people in the time of coronavirus. Now the Maine wedding has joined that list. If the U.S. had adequate contact tracing, there’s no doubt there would be far more superspreader events on that list. As it is, experts are left connecting those dots—to Trump’s Tulsa rally, to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Soon it could be to Trump’s Henderson, Nevada, rally, or the indoor rally after that. And each one will set the entire country back.
This is what life is like when a dangerous leader and a pandemic collide.