Given the rise in cases, however, it seems unlikely that the death rate will remain stagnant for much longer. Deaths for patients infected weeks ago will probably start to pile up. Some morgues in Arizona and Texas are running out of capacity and are already seeking refrigerated trucks, just as those in New York City did months ago. Uncontrolled community transmission among young people is likely to result in a spread in nursing homes, where a large share of fatalities occurs among the more vulnerable elderly. Should hospital capacity become strained, as appears to be the case in Houston, the quality of care could deteriorate and result in increased deaths as well.
Denial has not proved to be a particularly effective virus-suppression strategy. When polled by YouGov last week, a third of Americans who had voted for Mr Trump said they thought covid-19 was either a minor problem nationwide or not a problem at all. A recent Gallup poll showed that 94% of Democrats say they always or very often wear a mask when outside their homes compared with 46% of Republicans (and 68% of independents). To many voters, worry about the virus transmuted into coded disapproval of the president; maskwearing is seen as a talisman of deranged coastal liberalism.
Mr Abbott, who while running for governor bragged about how many times he had sued Barack Obama’s administration, is facing a mild insurrection in Texas from counties over his imposition of a mask requirement. Localised control, which once appeared to be a compensating feature of the American system, may now be working against containment. Confusing back-and-forths between Mr Newsom and counties in California have hindered timelier action there too. These are co-ordination problems that the federal government ought to solve. But throughout the crisis the White House has not seemed interested. Once again, states and cities will probably have to do the hard work alone.