On this day of strange convergence, imagine, for a moment, that we actually had a President who cared more about saving the lives of Americans than he did about invalidating their votes. As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins, indulge in the fantasy that the deaths of 300,000 people mattered to him. What if he were not inventing an alternative election in which he, not the voters, chose electors. Suppose he had enough humanity to decide that, with the 40 days he has left, he would do everything in his power to prevent more deaths. With a single speech, Donald Trump could save as many as 50,000 lives. I have even saved him the trouble of writing it.
“My fellow Americans,” he could say, “With thousands of our fellow citizens dying every day, these are sad and dangerous times. This virus is like nothing any of us has experienced, but we have all known hard times. And in hard times we know that our greatest strength comes from our collective will, from our determination to work together to overcome adversity.”
“The new vaccines and their ability to change the course of events give us hope, but that will take time. So, in the coming months, as we work as quickly as possible to vaccinate everyone and stop this scourge, I am asking that everyone in the United States do one simple thing every time they leave their home.”
“Wear a mask.”
“I know that I have expressed doubt about the need for masks in the past, but the science on this is clear and unequivocal. Masks save lives. They protect you, but, more importantly, they protect your friends, your family, and your community. They are almost as effective as the vaccine in saving lives. Please, please, please, wear a mask. Even if you don’t believe me, do it. Lives depend on it.”
That’s it. Not even 200 words. 250 lives saved for each word uttered. Not to mention tens of thousands of infections and thousands of hospitalizations prevented. For. Each. Word.
Currently, about 75% of Americans wear a mask when they go out. Our most advanced model for predicting the spread of COVID-19, estimates that raising the rate of mask usage to 95% could save over 50,000 lives by April 21. I know that Joe Biden has stated that he will call for a national mask mandate as soon as he takes office, but if Donald Trump does not call on his base of supporters to wear masks, it is unlikely that the 75% number will budge.
This speech is, of course, fantasy. The ghosts of pandemics past, present, and future will not visit the President in a fever dream and change his world view. He is far more concerned with overturning an election than saving lives. But one can fantasize. One can imagine him actually caring about his legacy and understanding how completely he could change it with a single speech.
Donald Trump, instead of spending your last few weeks in the White House insisting you should be President twice, spend them actually leading America once.