State of America

A Covid-19 vaccine could be out in the US this week, while Trump keeps banging the voter-fraud drum

US President Donald Trump. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is nothing if not consistent – even after failing to force the governor to overturn the Georgia vote, he says ‘we’re gonna win back the White House’. This is while Covid-19 was reported as the leading cause of death in the country last week and Vice President-elect Joe Biden continues to announce high-profile new staff.

US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that his lawyer and former New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, had tested positive for Covid-19. As is his wont, Trump shared the news on Twitter, saying Giuliani had “tested positive for the China Virus. Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!”

Giuliani has been the public face of Trump’s claims of voter fraud, most recently seen without a mask at a meeting with lawmakers in Georgia on Thursday, 3 December. As Trump’s personal attorney, the US president tweeted on November 14 that he had put Giuliani in charge as lead campaign lawyer for the post-election legal battles. This came as Trump lost or dropped nine court challenges on the same day.

The 76-year-old lawyer has been meeting state lawmakers around the country, from Arizona to Michigan, Pennsylvania and lately Georgia and has until now avoided contracting the virus even as staff and people close to him contracted it – his campaign manager and his son have had Covid-19.

Trump attended a rally at Valdosta in the south-eastern part of the state of Georgia on Saturday where he complained about the election outcome and Republican leaders in Georgia refusing to overturn results in that state. Billed as a victory rally, it was intended to remind Georgians to go back to vote on 5 January and vote for the two Republicans in the Senate runoff elections. Trump’s main reason for speaking was to urge people to vote, but he spent most of his time complaining about the presidential election being “stolen”.  

The Republicans need a single win in Georgia to clinch control of the new Senate. If they win one of the two seats in Georgia they will control the upper chamber. The Democrats need to win both Georgia seats to tie with the Republicans – which will allow the vice-president elect, as presiding officer of the US Senate, to cast the tie-breaking vote and provide control on issues critical to the Biden administration.

It has also been reported that Covid-19 was the leading cause of death in the country last week.  In October, Scientific American reported that Covid-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the US, after heart disease (number one) and cancer (two). Late on Sunday night worldometers reported more than 15,100,000 positive coronavirus cases in the US, with a million reportedly added over the past five days. Deaths were reported to have reached 288,883. The Covid Tracking Project reported that across America more than 100,000 people are in hospital with Covid-19.

California’s Bay Area, with almost six million people, is under a stay-at-home order after it reported more than 22,000 new infections on Friday. About 10,000 people in the area are in hospital with the virus. The order is meant to be in place until 4 January 2021.

Already struggling businesses face closing down as retail outlets can operate at only 20% capacity and restaurants have to close outdoor operations and operate on a takeout and delivery basis only. Business owners in the area, especially small business owners, are in despair and fear they will not survive. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned citizens that positivity rates for Covid-19 “remain high across all regions of the United States, with 68% of jurisdictions experiencing increasing case rates”.  The CDC is also using various media platforms, including social media, to remind people to maintain all physical distancing measures and to keep up mask-wearing and hand-washing protocols. 

As in South Africa, citizens have needed to be reassured that contact tracing for Covid-19 is safe and does not expose anyone to having their personal information disseminated in any way. 

Last Thursday, Biden said he would ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days after he takes office: “Just 100 days to mask, not forever.”

The vaccine rollout in the US is imminent as the Pfizer Inc and BioNtech vaccine could be available for use this Friday, 11 December if it gets emergency-use approval from the US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, Biden announced another key post pick this weekend – secretary of health and human services. He nominated California attorney-general Xavier Becerra. The former congressman has been at the forefront of a campaign to protect the affordable care act and, if confirmed, would have to lead the department through possibly the most crucial stage of the pandemic. He would also be the first Latino in the post. DM

An Wentzel is Night Editor and specialist reporter for Daily Maverick. She went to the US to visit family as the pandemic struck and is currently marooned in the land of the “free”.


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