Surge of dangerous COVID-19 disinformation threatens lives

We are entering a new surge of coronavirus cases — and of dangerous disinformation coming from the White House.

It originally was President Donald Trump who ignored the threat, claiming in February that the virus would disappear “like a miracle.” Now it’s Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, repeatedly insisting the surge in cases is because of more testing.

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Let’s be clear: The reason the nation is experiencing significant increases in COVID-19 cases is not just because we’re testing more people. It’s also because a greater portion of people being tested have the virus.

Two weeks ago, an average of the prior seven days showed that 4.4% of the tests nationwide were coming back positive. Today, that positivity rate has shot up to 6.9%.

Put another way, tests for the coronavirus are 57% more likely to be positive today than they were just two weeks ago.

The same trend can be seen in California, where the rate increased from 4.4% to 5.9% during the past three weeks. And more people are being hospitalized. In California, there are more people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in hospitals than at any time in three months.

While the health of Americans is suffering as we reopen the economy, Trump and Pence continue downplaying the danger of the virus.

The vice president suggests the surge is only because of increased testing. The president ignores health experts as he refuses to wear a mask. Their message: No problem here, let’s move on. Consequently, the virus spread continues — and at a faster rate.

It’s not just Trump and Pence who are disseminating misguided messages.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to try to walk a political tightrope rather than acting decisively. After a strong start pushing residents to stay home if they didn’t need to go out, he then let the state rapidly reopen.

Then, when cases — predictably — started quickly rising, he required wearing of masks in public, a step that was long overdue, and then during the weekend closed bars in some counties, a seemingly random action. Why bars? Why not construction sites or restaurants?

That would require analyzing the occupations of coronavirus cases. There’s no sign the state is doing such an analysis. Meanwhile, it balks at releasing data so others could.

Equally disconcerting is the message coming from Contra Costa, Calif. On Monday, health officials there reported coronavirus hospitalizations had increased 75% in the past two weeks. The number of daily cases doubled. And the rate of positive test results surged from 4% to 6%.

The county’s response? Delay further reopenings that were scheduled for Thursday. That’s a no-brainer, but it’s not nearly enough. After all, the surge in cases occurred under the current rules.

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Curbing the spread of COVID-19 requires clear, responsible messages and transparency from our leaders.We’re often not getting that.

— The Mercury News

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