A day after 2,804 Americans died in a single day from the coronavirus pandemic – almost as many as in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks – Donald Trump said nothing about the harrowing national crisis.

The US president’s silence broke from the tradition of predecessors who have sought to play the role of “consoler-in-chief” to the American public after deadly bombings, school shootings and other tragedies.

Trump instead remains consumed with false allegations that last month’s presidential election, which he lost to Joe Biden, was rigged against him. On Wednesday, when the pandemic death toll hit its record, he released a 46-minute videotaped speech that spread lies and disinformation about voter fraud.

On Thursday, as the country grappled with the traumatic loss of life, Trump was preoccupied with presenting an award to an American football coach. In a subsequent exchange with reporters he did not directly address the unfolding national tragedy, while on Twitter he continued to push baseless conspiracy theories.

Covid-19 cases in the US have doubled within 10 weeks to a total of 14m. Wednesday saw a record of more than 100,000 people in hospital. The day’s death toll of 2,804, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, was the worst since the start of the pandemic. The total stands at more than 275,000.

The US has 4% of the world’s population and 19% of its deaths from Covid-19. “This is hardly what people mean by American exceptionalism,” Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s influential Meet the Press programme, observed on Sunday.

Even as Trump pursues his doomed legal campaign to overturn the election result, experts warn that the holiday season could mark the most dangerous public health crisis in the history of the country, straining ambulance services and hospitals to breaking point.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on Wednesday: “The reality is, December and January and February are going to be tough times. I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

He added that the total number of deaths could approach 450,000 by February if Americans fail to follow public health guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN: “By this time next week, we are going to be talking about 3,000 deaths a day – that’s 9/11 every single day.”

After 9/11, George W Bush sought to rally the nation from the Oval Office and Ground Zero in New York. Bill Clinton offered comfort after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and Barack Obama sang Amazing Grace in Charleston, South Carolina, as it tried to heal after nine African Americans were shot dead at church in 2015.

But Trump spent the election promising his campaign rallies – with few face masks and little physical distancing – that America was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic and the media would pay it no attention once the votes were in.

Even now, the president, eager to claim credit for an imminent vaccine, is reportedly planning to host two dozen indoor Christmas parties that will again flout his own government’s public health advice. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, has similar plans, according to the Washington Post.

Zac Petkanas, director of the healthcare pressure group Protect Our Care’s coronavirus war room, said: “The Trump administration has completely surrendered any leadership or effort to combat the spread of this virus. While doctors, nurses, first responders and frontline workers battle the worst surges this country has experienced so far, Donald Trump and his cronies are partying away the holiday season.”

He added: “From the start, Donald Trump has downplayed the danger of this virus, and now, on his temper-tantrum-fueled way out the door, he’s determined to leave death and destruction in his wake.”



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