Americans confront the coronavirus stress test in very different ways

Brian Stelter shares some of the responses he received from viewers when he said "it's okay not to be okay right now." "No, we're not okay," but that's something we all have in common, one viewer says. "I know in time, we will all be okay, together," another says.

Posted: Apr 28, 2020 12:01 AM
Updated: Apr 28, 2020 12:01 AM

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

The coronavirus is a stress test. In the same way that doctors put patients on treadmills to test their hearts... and in the same way that regulators put banks through simulations to test their balance sheets... this disaster is a stress test for American democracy, for countries around the world, for the global economy, for hospitals, for supply chains, for media companies.

It is also a stress test for our families. Our neighborhoods. And for each of us individually. For kids; for young adults; for spouses; for people who live alone. We are all experiencing it. Some people are thriving, while others are floundering. Unfortunately the person at the very top is floundering.

Counting the dead

As the death toll has worsened, President Trump's behavior has worsened. I thinkhis statements and rants and tweets are newsworthy no matter what, but should be reported in context, and right now the death toll is crucial context.

As the US death toll approached 50,000, Trump mused about disinfectants.

50,000 dead, and he claimed he was just pranking the media.

51,000 dead, and he attacked CNN's owner AT&T.

52,000 dead, and he tweeted about a professional wrestler.

53,000 dead, and he touted his ratings.

54,000 dead, and he went on a misspelled rant about "Noble Prizes."

Nearly 55,000 dead, and he retweeted a far-right commentator who suggested "lunatics" on the left might be inflating the mortality rates "in an attempt to steal the election."

Incapable of empathy?

The Washington Post's Philip Bump and Ashley Parker analyzed three weeks' worth of WH briefings and found that the president spent little time talking about the actual victims of Covid-19 and lots of time portraying himself as a victim. They wrote: "The president has offered little in the way of accurate medical information or empathy for coronavirus victims, instead focusing on attacking his enemies and lauding himself and his allies." I appreciated this piece because it's important to try to see what's missing...

The American family

On Sunday's "Reliable Sources" telecast I said this: When a grandparent is not well, the entire family feels it. The entire family shares the pain. Thousands of families are going through that right now -- and the American family is experiencing it too.When a leader is not well, everyone feels it.

Others are bringing up this same concern, and some are going a lot further than I did:

-- Carl Bernstein on CNN: "The question for the press, and all Americans, and the senators, and congressmen that needs to be raised is: Are we at the mercy of a delusional, unstable president?"

-- Actor Bryan Cranston on Twitter: "I've stopped worrying about the president's sanity. He's not sane. And the realization of his illness doesn't fill me with anger, but with profound sadness. What I now worry about is the sanity of anyone who can still support this deeply troubled man to lead our country."

-- So what's the counterargument? Well most of the pro-Trump arguments I came across this weekend weren't about Trump at all -- they were about evil Democrats and "enemy of the people" journalists. Those are deflections, not defenses.

The 'villains' of this era

"We're running out of words to describe this era," Jake Tapper said on Sunday's "SOTU." He said "Republicans in Congress and in the Trump administration know that not only is the President failing to rise to this moment to, for example, get the nation on a path to widespread testing, the president's now making open ponderings about treatments that experts worry could actually harm people."

They know it — so what are they doing about it? "Republican leaders need to acknowledge the reality of the situation. They need to intervene," Tapper said. "They need to convince President Trump to defer to the experts and focus on the needs of not his ego but the sick and the dying and the people trying to care for them." He concluded: "There is going to be a history of this era written and those who are pretending this irresponsibility is not happening, they will be remembered as villains."

Re-centering the story

I'm all in favor of less top-down, Trumpian coverage and more bottom-up coverage. Here are two strong examples:

Page One of Monday's NYT has a story about big businesses getting small-business bailout $$$ on one side and a heart-wrenching Sabrina Tavernise story about unemployment on the other side. Tavernise depicts the "quiet catastrophe" for working-class people in Las Vegas. Read the story here.

Monday's WaPo front page is equally powerful. It has a lead story about "Mixed signals on virus orders" and a Stephanie McCrummen story titled "Day-to-day, line-to-line," about life in the South Bronx. "This is kind of how I imagined the End Times to be," one resident said. "That's what it feels like." Another: "We just have to hold on." Read the story...

"In time, we will all be okay, together."

It's critical that we cover both the economic toll and the emotional toll of this disaster. On Sunday's "Reliable," I followed up on my "it's okay not to be okay" commentary and shared some responses from viewers.

-- Joe wrote: "I always thought I was built for this. But it has been a rude awakening. A spiraling feeling of loss and no control."

-- Brad: "It's ok to feel sad for our kids and scared for our parents."

-- Tracy: "It's okay to be sad, afraid, and angry all at the same time."

-- Scott: "I am not ok. I am so worried about losing my house."

-- Leslie: "I lost my job last week. I feel like part of my identity has been taken away."

-- Dave: "It is okay to not be okay, because no one is okay. That is the one thing we all have in common right now. No one is okay."

-- Jennifer: "I'm not okay. I'm quite frankly pissed off. I'm just plain angry. This world has been turned upside down and inside out."

Yes it has. So I closed with Jennifer's final comments in her email to me: "No, we're not okay, but I know in time, we will all be okay, together."

We will pass this stress test. Better days are ahead... I just don't know exactly when.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
Shelby744
Logan711
Ashland672
Carroll673
Fulton670
Scioto670
Wyandot635
Brown611
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland501
Van Wert471
Perry441
Seneca412
Henry330
Paulding300
Jackson280
Pike280
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
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