The U.S. is now experiencing a daily 9/11 in terms of deaths from COVID-19, and CDC director Robert Redfield has said we should expect that trend to continue for the next 60-90 days.

It may not be entirely apples to apples, but when you consider how our country would react if the coronavirus were a foreign nation attacking us, the response from our highest levels of leadership and many citizens has been something well short of that.

It’s difficult not to feel disgust toward our state’s leadership that has ignored White House Coronavirus Task Force recommendations to enact a statewide mask mandate and tougher measures and has failed to adequately get out ahead of what’s happening now and what is about to happen. Like much of the U.S., Georgia is reporting record numbers of cases and hospitals are stretched thin, teetering daily on the brink of full capacity. And we haven’t even gotten into the winter, which Redfield and other officials have warned will be the darkest time in American public health history, even with encouraging vaccine developments.

It’s especially difficult not to feel a strong level of disgust toward the outgoing president, and by extension his enablers in his party, for responding to the current reality by, as a friend put it on social media, “ignoring the pandemic’s toll on lives, holding super-spreader events and attacking the foundations of democracy.”

Indeed, Donald Trump continues to ignore the bomb that is going off across the country so he can air falsehoods and grievances about his loss in an election that he effectively pissed away.

“We’re all victims,” he told a crowd of maskless supporters at a recent rally in Valdosta, one of his latest events bordering on — I’m using this term loosely — criminal negligence.

The GOP’s response to Trump’s crusade of idiocy has ranged from encouragement, to silence, to muted opposition, to very little strong pushback. Not everyone in the party is willing to dive off this cliff. Quite a handful of leading Republican officials have refused to cave in to his demands and for the most part stood their ground.

But that wisdom and decency clearly doesn’t extend to all. U.S. senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and Congressman Jody Hice (whose district includes Barrow County), all of whom claim to be acting in service of their state’s best interests, threw their backing behind the Texas attorney general’s baseless efforts to overthrow the will of the American people, who chose to elect someone else other than Trump president. And there is a push in the Georgia legislature, led largely by House Speaker David Ralston, to throw Team Trump a bone so they’ll stand down. Ralston announced last week he would seek legislation that would change the state’s constitution to where the legislature — not the actual people — elects the secretary of state, a clear reactionary measure to Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s refusal to illegally nullify it at Trump’s demand.

You can argue about whether the position should be an elected or an appointed one, but this never seemed to be an issue when Democratic presidential candidates weren’t winning the state the last few elections. It didn’t seem to bother Ralston when the current governor served as secretary of state for most of the year he was elected to the office.

And the change is all but certain to fail to achieve the two-thirds vote it needs from the House and Senate and the approval of voters to become a reality. But that’s not the point here. The intent from Ralston here seems to be appeasing Trump and his zealots so they’ll quit bothering him while he attempts to throw Raffensperger and his office under the bus. It’s a stunning level of cowardice that, as noted in this space before, rules the day among GOP leaders’ approach to Trump.

And that brings us back to the party’s response to the pandemic and how so much of it is dictated by Trump and his cult of personality — and the inescapable truth behind where we are now. Had Trump, from day one, taken the posture toward the pandemic like almost any other previous president would have, so many lives would have been saved. Trump, from the outset, could have mobilized an aggressive, science- and data-driven response, with a man-on-the-moon-mission mentality. And, despite today’s GOP’s often anti-science bent, most Republicans and many more Trump supporters would have fallen in line with mask mandates and more stringent measures aimed at saving lives. It would not have alleviated all the pain and suffering, but it stands to reason we would be in a whole hell of a lot better place than we are now.

And as much credit as Trump has received over the last four years from the media, including myself at times, for having strong “political instincts,” this approach would have been his most direct path to being fairly easily re-elected. But he screwed it up royally out of ego, narcissism, paranoia and a general lack of humanity.

It’s sad that many don’t recognize that and never will. And it’s shameful and pathetic that there are people in positions of power and influence who know that to be the case but choose to stand idly by and oblige a toddler’s tantrum while the nation continues to reel.

Scott Thompson is editor of the Barrow News-Journal. He can be reached at sthompson@barrownewsjournal.com.

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