Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Oct 8: The New England Journal of Medicine calls the Trump administration’s response to the virus “incompetent” and calls for voting political leaders out of office, breaking the top-ranked journal’s 208 year nonpartisan history.  39 states report seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases. Nine states set 7-day records for infections, and Wisconsin and Hawaii report a record number for deaths in a 7-day period. A poll released today by Gallup-West Health, but taken before Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, finds that more Americans trust Biden to lead the US health care system through the pandemic. the cluster of people infected by the COVID-19 outbreak connected to the Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has grown to 34, including several White House staff members, according to The Washington Post. the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation announces the arrests of 13 men suspected of orchestrating a domestic terror plot to kidnap American politician Gretchen Whitmer, the Governor of Michigan, and otherwise using violence to overthrow the state government.

Oct 9: The U.S. tallies more than 99,000 new COVID cases in a 24-hour period. The Trump administration signs a $486 million agreement with AstraZeneca to develop an antibody treatment for COVID-19

Oct 10: Louisiana is drowning under Hurricane Delta, which dumps over 15 inches of rain on Lake Charles. In his first public appearance since getting sick (other than the balcony scene in his remake of Evita), Trump says he believes the coronavirus “is going to disappear” largely to thanks “science, medicine,” and “the American spirit.”

Oct 11: California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office says that they have received complaints about what appear to be unauthorized ballot drop boxes in Los Angeles, Orange, and Fresno counties. Biden’s lead in the polls expands. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett begins her confirmation hearing, amidst protests from Democrats in the Senate. The coronavirus relief bill fails to pass Congress, again. Protests against police violence continue

Oct 12: The California Republican Party confirms that it owned unofficial ballot drop boxes that have been reported in three counties.President Trump holds a campaign rally in Sanford, Florida in his first public appearance after being hospitalized. He declares that he is “immune” to the virus and that he feels “so powerful.” Senators clash during Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing. 13 states set records for new coronavirus cases. Georgia voters wait hours to cast ballots on 1st day of early voting. Facebook announces that it will ban posts denying the Holocaust.

Oct 13: The Supreme Court permits the Trump administration’s plea to end the US Census count early, even though the count was already hampered by lockdowns and sick staff. Activists argue that ending the count early will mean minority groups will be undercounted and subsequently receive less political representation and federal funding than they would with a more accurate count. This, of course, was precisely the point: the effort to cut short the count was meant to accommodate President Trump’s July order to exclude undocumented immigrants and other marginalized voters from the count. The Supreme Court rejects Democratic lawmakers’ ’emoluments’ case against Trump

From the Cutting Room Floor ...

Woodward’s book Rage makes it clear that the CDC was filing internal Situational Reports on the virus starting on January 1, noting on January 5 that the number of people with the virus had doubled in four days.[1] We know from Woodward that the CDC was not allowed into China for all of January, despite multiple requests from Trump, to see for itself what was happening on the ground. We know that Trump had been completely briefed on the state of the crisis on January 31, the day that he announced they would be closing off travel into the United States from China.[2] Looking back to our own entry on January 31, even then, we thought the screening was ineffectual and the messaging was muddled. It seems clear now that they should have stopped travel not just from China, but from Europe, as unpopular and costly as it would have been. Instead of travelling from China over the Pacific Ocean to America, the virus went West into Europe and then across the Atlantic, into places like New York. We did not shut down travel from Europe until March 11, way too late. Woodward’s book also corroborates the concern that we expressed in late January about the Chinese not limiting their own international travel, even as they were stopping all movement domestically. As Redfield noted, “You couldn’t go from Wuhan to Beijing, but you could go Wuhan to London.”[3]

We are also reminded by Woodward of how muddled the messaging really was. Anthony Fauci and Robert Redfield, the Director of the CDC, both encouraged the American people to “go on with their normal lives” on the last day of February.[4] At the same time, there was the WHO messaging coming from the World Health Organization that was remarkably ominous. In late February, they made the warning that the global community wasn’t ready to deal with what was to come. In addition, on Feb 25, Dr. Nancy Messonnier gave her warning that this epidemic was inevitable.

The majority of America did not hear these messages. And that is because, through late February, as the virus raged across Europe and the Middle East, Trump continued to say that there was nothing to worry about. We know this already. We documented it when it was happening. What we didn’t know then was that Trump knew he was not telling the whole truth.  Limbaugh jumped on board, adding the narrative of a deep state conspiracy hell bent on undermining Trump’s reelection bid. This became the obscuring narrative, the story that got in the way of hearing and acting in a way that could have saved thousands of lives.



[1] Bob Woodward, Rage, Illustrated Edition (Simon & Schuster, 2020), 213, 217. We have contacted the CDC requesting their Situational Reports but have not received an answer. Woodward’s claims about the contents of these reports cannot be verified as a result.

[2] Woodward, 236.

[3] Woodward, 335.

[4] Woodward, 255.

Read more

“Watch Highlights From The 2020 Vice Presidential Debate Mostly About Trump (And The Fly),” NBC News, October 8, 2020,

“VP Fly Debate Cold Open,” Saturday Night Live, NBC, October 11, 2020,

Chas Licciardello and John Barron, “Did Donald Trump incite a militia plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer?,” Planet America Fireside Chat, Austrailian Broadcasting Corporation News, October 9, 2020,

“Michigan Governor Whitmer speaks about a thwarted plot by militia members to kidnap her,” Reuters, October 8, 2020,

“Michigan lawmakers react to alleged militia plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” WDIV Detroit NBC 4, October 8, 2020,

Jeff Pegues, “New details about plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer,” CBS News, October 9, 2020,

Nuzzi, Olivia. “The Entire Presidency Is a Superspreading Event.” Intelligencer, October 9, 2020.
Mole, Beth. “Grim New Analyses Spotlight Just How Hard US Is Failing in Pandemic.” Ars Technica, October 12, 2020.
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