‘It’ll be cataclysmic’: Chilling prediction
US President Donald Trump spent his Monday morning posting another barrage of misinformation about his election defeat online, and saying nothing about America's worsening coronavirus crisis.
Joe Biden was the actual winner of the election, with 306 electoral votes compared to Mr Trump's 232. The threshold for victory was 270.
The President has repeatedly claimed his defeat was caused by widespread voter fraud. Thirteen days after the election, he and his campaign have yet to provide any evidence to back up that claim.
A recount is underway in Georgia, which Mr Biden won by 14,000 votes, and another might happen in Wisconsin, which he won by 20,000. Recounts typically change the result by a few hundred votes at most.
The Trump campaign is also continuing with a series of lawsuits across the country, none of which affect enough votes to change the result in a single state. The President needs to flip at least three, including Pennsylvania, where Mr Biden leads by 58,000.
Thus far, most of his legal challenges have been thrown out.
I WON THE ELECTION!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
In other tweets, some of which you can see above, Mr Trump repeated the thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory that voting machines running on software from a company called Dominion deleted votes for him and changed them to favour Mr Biden.
The President's own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has concluded there is "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised".
Mr Trump labelled the recount in Georgia "fake" because "they are not allowing signatures to be looked at and verified".
He was referring to mail-in ballots. Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has pointed out that voters' signatures are actually verified twice before such a ballot is accepted and counted.
Under the state's electoral laws, absentee ballots are not sent to everyone - voters have to request them. That request is signed, and the signature is then compared to the one in voter registration files. That happens before the person in question is even sent a ballot.
Then, when the ballot is returned, the voter is required to sign the outer envelope in which it's enclosed. Again, that signature is checked against the voter registration files.
Thus, no mail-in ballot is counted in Georgia without the signature being verified twice.
What else? Mr Trump urged Americans to watch One America News Network, which is known for peddling right-wing conspiracy theories and has described itself as "one of his greatest supporters".
The President is currently feuding with Fox News over its decision, along with every other credible network, to call the election for Mr Biden nine days ago.
The turnout for that rally was impressive, no doubt, but news networks who were there have estimated it was actually in the tens of thousands.
Finally, in a single post related to the pandemic, Mr Trump highlighted some excellent news from the biotechnology company Moderna, which reported its vaccine had proven to be 95 per cent effective in clinical trials.
He told "historians" to remember that the vaccine, along with Pfizer's, had been developed during his presidency.
Another Vaccine just announced. This time by Moderna, 95% effective. For those great “historians”, please remember that these great discoveries, which will end the China Plague, all took place on my watch!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
The one thing conspicuously missing from Mr Trump's avalanche of posts was any mention whatsoever of America's current spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations.
The US has recorded a million new infections in the last six days, and more than 100,000 each day since the election. A month ago, it was averaging fewer than 60,000.
For context, Australia has recorded 27,750 cases throughout the entire pandemic.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, 69,864 Americans are currently hospitalised, and well over a thousand are dying each day.
COVID Exit Strategy rates the virus's spread as "uncontrolled" in 47 out of 50 states.
The US is about to enter its frigid winter months, meaning people will be clustered inside, where the virus is more easily transmitted. And with Thanksgiving approaching, many are planning to crisscross the country to hold large gatherings with their families.
Even under the most optimistic timeline for a vaccine, which could see 10-20 million doses distributed to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable Americans by the end of the year, it will not be widely available to the general public for months yet.
Most fraudulent Election in history! https://t.co/X2pRkTqWIS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
At his media conference on Saturday, Mr Trump suggested that would happen by April - five months from now.
The US death toll is currently at 246,000, and health experts have warned another 200,000 could die in those intervening months, before the vaccine is available to everyone.
Joining @AnaCabrera @CNNnewsroom: We're already at an all-time high in #covid19 hospitalizations. Most worrisome? Hospitalizations now reflect infections from 3-4 weeks ago, when we were at 80,000 new daily infections. Now we're at 180,000. What will it look like 3-4 week later? pic.twitter.com/zqYvrmFB6z— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) November 14, 2020
Mr Trump appears to have little interest in the situation.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported the President had not attended a single meeting of his White House's coronavirus task force in "at least five months". One of the task force's members, Admiral Brett Giroir, confirmed that fact yesterday during an interview with the ABC News show This Week.
The Post's report was based on interviews with more than a dozen Trump administration officials. It said Mr Trump had ignored calls from senior task force advisers Dr Deborah Birx and Dr Anthony Fauci, who were pushing for increased restrictions, an expansion of testing, and clearer messaging about the effectiveness of masks.
Dr Birx and Dr Fauci have also "raised concerns about hospital overcrowding" and issued warnings about the "deadly winter" America is about to experience, but "to no avail".
The President no longer receives regular briefings on the pandemic, and hardly ever reads the written report Dr Birx prepares each day.
A White House spokeswoman disputed the story, saying Mr Trump remains "intensely focused" on defeating the virus.
I won the Election!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
Meanwhile, health experts are calling for the government to take the current surge in cases more seriously and send a clearer message about the importance of continuing to wear face masks and practise social distancing.
"We're seeing more cases, in more places, than ever," Dr Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told Today.
The Fake recount going on in Georgia means nothing because they are not allowing signatures to be looked at and verified. Break the unconstitutional Consent Decree!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
"If you look at a single number, hospitalisations, they're at the highest number ever. That number will increase, within the next month, to over 100,000. So as stressed as hospitals are today, they'll continue to be stressed.
"Deaths are continuing to increase, and we'll hit, by the end of the year, 2000 deaths a day. By the time president-elect Biden is inaugurated, more than 300,000 people will have died."
He urged Americans to change their Thanksgiving plans.
"Travelling from one place to another, meeting inside with lots of family members for a long time, without masks, that's a formula for massive explosion," Dr Frieden warned.
Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert who has been tapped to serve on the Biden transition team's coronavirus advisory board, echoed that concern.
"Look, we have a fire raging across the country. These kinds of gatherings are like pouring gasoline on the fire," Dr Gounder told MSNBC.
"You're bringing people of different generations together in close quarters, indoors, around a table where they're probably not going to be wearing masks.
"I've heard so many - even among my friends - saying, 'Well I trust so-and-so.' This is not about trust. The virus doesn't care if you trust somebody, if you love somebody. In fact, it hitches a ride on that trust. It's around the people that you are closest to that you are most likely to get infected."
Other experts are issuing even more dire predictions.
"It's getting bad and it's potentially going to get a lot worse," epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo told The New York Times.
"The months ahead are looking quite horrifying."
Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, another epidemiologist, has warned December will be "cataclysmic".
Only 28 states mandate masks. This is not going to end well. Remember, case surge today ==> death surge in ~3 weeks. December will be cataclysmic. We need action now.— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 15, 2020
(HT to @MikeGeorgeCBS) #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/GKRpIdVVI4
As the President appears to have no intention of doing anything more to contain the virus until a vaccine is ready, pressure is now coming on Mr Biden to take the lead.
The president-elect has no power to implement new policies, but experts say he could make his messaging more aggressive, particularly in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.
Dominion is running our Election. Rigged! https://t.co/xvwrpLpAZa— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
"We cannot afford to be rudderless right now," Dr Leana Wen, a health policy professor at George Washington University, told The Wall Street Journal.
"We need an FDR moment," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
"We need the public, the entire country, to realise the enormous seriousness of this situation."
"Help is on the way, there is hope on the horizon, but we have to make it through this winter," Dr Wen added during an appearance on CNN, following the encouraging news from Moderna.
One of the problems Mr Biden faces as he plans his own coronavirus response is Mr Trump's refusal to concede the election, which has barred the White House's current task force from communicating with the president-elect's transition team.
"Obviously it's something that we're concerned about," Dr Fauci told NBC this morning.
"I know that transitions are very important to get a smooth, essentially, passing of the baton without stopping running. You just want things to go very smoothly. So hopefully we'll see that soon."
Here's a thing I want everyone to understand.— Ed Yong (@edyong209) November 15, 2020
There is a roughly 12-day lag between rising cases rising hospitalizations.
So the 1.5 million (!!!) confirmed cases from the last 2 weeks have not yet factored into stories about packed emergency rooms. https://t.co/JID98tWjbt pic.twitter.com/3DNeiX2esb
"The virus is not going to stop and call a time-out while things change. The virus is going to keep going.
"The vaccines are effective, we want to get it approved as quickly as we possibly can. We want to get doses to people starting in December, and then we want to really get the ball rolling as we head into January, February and March.
"We want a smooth process with that. And the way you do that is by having the two groups speak to each other and exchange information."
“Now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective.”— TODAY (@TODAYshow) November 16, 2020
Watch @SavannahGuthrie’s full interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci about the new coronavirus vaccine candidate results from Moderna, battling COVID fatigue, and the importance of a smooth White House transition. pic.twitter.com/mosSOEyMzo
In a speech on Friday, Mr Biden expressed frustration at the lack of co-operation from the White House.
"This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking. I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year," he said.
"The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now."
Originally published as 'It'll be cataclysmic': Chilling prediction