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Pariah Country

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Americans locked down at home for months may be locked out of most of Europe because the United States failed to control the coronavirus within its borders.

The America that rescued Europe from fascism in World War II, the America that a few short years ago was the leader of the free world, the America that was respected far and wide, now is a diseased outcast that Europe wants to quarantine.

Blame Donald Trump, whose “stable genius” doesn’t include focusing on protecting the more than 320 million Americans he’s supposed to be governing.

“The plague . . . it’s gone away,” the president told a rally in Arizona Tuesday.

Reports of a coming second wave of the virus are exaggerated, Vice President Mike Pence wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. He may be right. The pandemic instead may hit in one big continuous wave.

The experts on a White House virus task force that Trump virtually dismissed because they were more popular than he disagreed with the president and Pence.

“We’re still in the middle of a serious outbreak,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told a House panel the same day. “There is no doubt about that.”

Trump doubts it.

The European Union, some of whose 27 members have been battered by Trump for years, is considering blocking Americans along with Russians, Chinese, Brazilians and others from developing countries like Vietnam from entering its bloc because of the rising spread of coronavirus that leads to the deadly COVID-19 in their countries. The move is a major slap at Trump and “a stinging blow to American prestige in the world,” The New York Times reported Wednesday from Brussels, the EU’s headquarters.

A decision is expected July 1.

This is what happens when Americans give over the running of our country to an ignorant, stubborn, childlike individual with a mind that focuses only on himself and his chances for re-election four months from now, which may be getting worse by the day.

Example: Trump took advantage of his trip to Arizona for a rally Tuesday to stop at his border wall with Mexico. The wall, he said as he headed for the iron barrier, “stopped COVID, it stopped everything.” The man is in denial, a serious disconnect between what’s going on in his head and reality. Either that or he’s afraid to govern because he doesn’t know how.

Trump went to Arizona when the state reported 3,571 new cases of the virus, a record. Did he care whether there would be new infections among rally goers? He obviously wasn’t concerned about more people getting infected at his rally in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday. He cared only about the number of people who showed up for his rally, less than half of what was expected.

Maybe tough, grownup handling of America and its narcissistic leader is precisely what’s needed from others to stop the country from prematurely opening its doors as if the pandemic has receded and to force its citizens to wear masks and isolate themselves as much as possible to control the spread of a serious major disease. Americans have little patience.

Worrying about appearing to be weak while wearing a mask or complaining that putting one on or not being able to enter a bar or restaurant violates one’s freedom is childish and should be long past. COVID-19 is no joke. A cure for the disease may not be found for many months, if then.

About 2.3 million cases of the virus have broken out in the United States since its start, killing some 119,000 people. There are about 9 million cases worldwide.

The pandemic is “the greatest public health crisis our nation and world have confronted in a century,” Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the House panel Tuesday.

News of the EU’s secret deliberation of two potential lists of countries whose citizens would be barred from Europe broke at the same time as American states tallied 36,000 new virus cases, shattering a record set April 25. California, Texas, and Florida lead other states in spikes of the disease, the Times said.

And New York, New Jersey and Connecticut decided to circle the wagons to require that people from nine other states who want to travel to those three be quarantined for two weeks upon their arrival.

If the EU goes through with implementing the ban on countries with high rates of the virus, Trump can be sure to find some way of retaliating against the U.S. ally instead of urging Americans to follow through on methods to control the virus. For sure, he’ll get angry, as he often does.

His Republican congressional allies need to step up and force changes in the American attitude toward this rampant disease and the way its people deal with it. Because if the coronavirus has proved one thing, it’s that this president doesn’t know what he’s doing running a country that much of the world once looked up to as a paradigm of what a nation state should be.

Richard C. Gross, a career journalist at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.

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