The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus reached 200,000 Tuesday.

That staggeringly grim count came less than a day after President Donald Trump, rambling like a clueless loon before a crowd of largely maskless Ohioans, said the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody” under 18.

It was more deceptive, idiotic nonsense from the man who is supposed to be leading our nation through one of the worst public health crises in history, a crisis that has claimed more American lives than World War I and the Vietnam War combined.

The deaths already are nearly 70 times the number of lives lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It’s as if the entire population of a city the size of Aurora, Illinois, was wiped out in eight months, and more are dying each day.

 America has less than 5 percent of the world’s population and more than 20 percent of the reported deaths from COVID-19. Only five countries -- Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Spain and Brazil -- have higher deaths per capita from this virus.

And our president continues to lie to the American people about the virus and downplay its seriousness. Saying the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody” under 18 is a dangerous deception.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flagged a steady increase of coronavirus cases among children younger than 18 from March to July.

Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said young people who get the virus often “have residual symptoms for weeks and sometimes month.” And he said follow-up checkups of those young people show they “have a substantially high proportion of cardiovascular abnormalities, evidence of myocarditis by MRI and PET scans, evidence of emerging cardiomyopathies.”

Perhaps most importantly, we know that Trump knows the virus affects young people because he told Bob Woodward, in recorded interviews in March, that the virus affects “plenty of young people.”

“Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob,” Trump said. “But just today, and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older.”

But Trump’s own words, along with facts, evidence, illness and death, mean nothing to him. He has lied about this pandemic -- it will  “miraculously” be gone by April “once the weather warms up” -- from the jump, and pushed fake cure-alls from hydroxychloroquine to convalescent plasma while raising doubts about proven safety practices like wearing masks.

The 200,000-death milestone should hang around Trump’s electoral neck like a millstone. It will be his legacy, those lost lives haunting him and Republicans for years to come, reminding people of the Faustian bargain conservatives struck to gain three Supreme Court justices.

Sadly, this is far from the end. We’re still losing more than 700 lives a day to the virus, and the University of Washington’s widely respected coronavirus pandemic model estimates the death toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year.

A vaccine won’t likely be widely available until later next year.

Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher, told The Associated Press on Tuesday: “It is completely unfathomable that we’ve reached this point.”

I suppose. Although given the leader of this country, a recklessly dishonest, self-absorbed con artist, I’d argue it’s completely fathomable.

The virus isn’t Trump’s fault, but he has led America’s weak-kneed response to the virus. He has failed, miserably, and 200,000 Americans are now dead.

You can’t downplay that many human lives. If they happen on a president’s watch they will stick. As they should.

Trump’s legacy is 200,000 deaths. And counting.


Rex  Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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