Coronavirus: From 'We've shut it down' to 100,000 US dead
It's an uncanny and almost tragically perfect piece of symmetry.

One of Donald Trump's first acts when he moved into the Oval Office in 2017, was to restore to a central position the bust of Winston Churchill that Barack Obama had moved out in favour of a bronze of Martin Luther King Jr. And in this fight against coronavirus, Donald Trump does see himself as a war leader; the property tycoon who could work a shovel on a Manhattan building site was also going to be shown to be a man of destiny - the untried field-marshal, with a baton in his knapsack ready to command the troops to get the job done. But also keeping the home fires burning, and lifting the morale of a frightened nation. It has all been far more jagged than that. Donald Trump is not imbued with the gift of soaring Churchillian rhetoric; there have been no "we shall fight them on the beaches" moments. Nor has he conjured the Rooseveltian calm when delivering one of his fireside chats. There have been days of infamy, but they have been invariably generated by things that the president has said, rather than what has been done to the United States. And anyway, for a self-styled war leader he must at least face the charge of ignoring the warnings about the enemy he was confronting in the early stages, appearing more Neville Chamberlain than Winston Churchill.

US deaths in conflict: Korean War (1950-1953):36,500
Vietnam War (1961-1975):58,000
Iraq War (2003-2011):4,500
Afghanistan (2001-today):2,000
Covid-19 (Feb 2020- today): 100,000The initial period of the US effort against the virus was marked by one significant action in late January, when the president stopped non-American visitors from China entering the United States. That was smart and decisive (although some have argued, to my mind unfairly, that Trump should have stopped anyone and everyone coming from China). But any tactical advantage that had given the administration was squandered in February where there was a month of inaction and incompetence. Attempts to roll out testing were woeful (the president was badly let down by the Center for Disease Control). Procurement of PPE was weak. The federal emergency stockpile of vital equipment was like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard: bare. The president had also disbanded the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council. He also eliminated the US government's $30m (£23m) Complex Crises Fund. These were decisions that badly undermined the American ability to counter the disease. All while he was on a determined mission to tell America that this thing from China was no biggie, and certainly was not going to upend the economy - the centrepiece of his strategy for re- election in November. It is worth just going through the president's quotes from these critical few weeks. Jan 22: "It's one person coming in from China and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine." Feb 2: "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China." Feb 10: "Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that's true. But we're doing great in our country. China, I spoke with President Xi, and they're working very, very hard. And I think it's going to all work out fine." Feb 11: "In our country, we only have, basically, 12 cases and most of those people are recovering and some cases fully recovered. So it's actually less." Feb 24: "The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC and World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock market starting to look very good to me!" Feb 26: "When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done." Crisis? What crisis? But in March the contours became clearer, and it was not pretty. The news was all grim. Because of a lack of testing, there had been extensive community transmission - people were coming down with coronavirus, but it wasn't clear where they'd contracted it, who they'd caught it from, how they'd got it. The "track and trace" (the language of coronavirus that we've all now become so familiar with) was now impossible. Although the first reported outbreak was out on the West Coast in Washington state, Covid-19 was playing a mean sleight of hand on us all. This pesky virus got us to look in one direction, when we really should have been focused on the other. Where Covid-19 was really letting rip was on the East Coast, especially in the biggest, richest and most densely populated city in the US, New York, with devastating consequencesIf the city was quickly to become the most worrying centre of the outbreak, the borough of Queens became the epicentre of the epicentre - the district where Donald Trump had grown up. And the visuals from there drove home to Americans - and to the president - the scale of the unfolding disaster. At Elmhurst Hospital, refrigerated container lorries were parked to store bodies that the morgue had no way of dealing with. I interviewed a young doctor from there at the height of the pandemic who painted a harrowing picture of daily life and death. The young doctors being asked to play god In the richest city of the wealthiest country on the planet, we saw nurses heading into intensive care units to treat Covid patients wearing bin liners as PPE, because that is all they had. We saw the ER consultant putting on his ski goggles to examine a patient, because the hospital didn't have the right face masks. We saw mass graves being dug on a small island in the Bronx to accommodate all those who'd died with no next of kin, or with no money for a funeral. Like the inscription on the tomb of the unknown soldiers in the Commonwealth war graves: "known unto God". America, this all-mighty superpower, with enough weaponry to blow the planet to smithereens many times over, was looking ragged and not in control of events in its own backyard. It's hard to see this chapter of America's story going as another moment of this nation's greatness. If Queens is where Donald Trump grew up, Manhattan is where he made his money - and nothing says money like Wall Street - this is the pulse oxygen monitor of the US economy. And the president likes to stand over its bed to take its vitals hourly. But as it became clear that the US economy was going to have to shut down, so the Dow Jones index went diving downwards - vertiginous drops, causing circuit-breakers to kick in, and causing the president and his advisors to fret that his whole re- election strategy had gone up in flames. But then the precipitous falls would be followed by dizzying rises as word came from Capitol Hill that lawmakers might be close to some agreement to inject gazillions into the cryogenically frozen economy. More than 25,000 of the deaths have come from New York, and New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo became coronavirus's first political superstar. His daily factual and highly detailed presentation of what was happening, where it was happening, what was being done to mitigate, and what still needed to be done became appointment to-view television across the US. Cometh the hour and all that. This lifelong Democrat - who also grew up in Queens - was drawing admiring glances from a lot of Republicans, and with many Democrats quietly thinking "I wish he was our candidate for president in November, and not Joe Biden". Like an old-fashioned newspaper, he delineated clearly what was fact and what was opinion. In the space of 45 highly polished minutes he would deliver the news stories of New York's descent into the abyss, and then give you his op-ed column. He admitted his response wasn't perfect, acknowledging he could have acted earlier. And he also gave praise to Donald Trump where he thought it was due; he tweaked the tail of the administration when he thought it needed a bit of a kicking. At around the same time as Cuomo was capturing the nation's attention, Donald Trump decided he would go daily with a White House briefing too. It is hard to overstate how much Donald Trump loves - and needs - the roar of the crowd. Governing is dull. Campaigning - and the adoration from his rallies - is what gives him energy. It's what gets his heart pumping and the blood circulating. And because of the lockdown, here was a president who was deprived of the two things he yearns for most - a day out playing golf, and an evening rally addressing raucous, loving crowds. There were also no heads of states visiting him, where the cameras would record his thoughts on whatever was the subject du jour. He was being starved of the oxygen of publicity, and so daily to the briefing room he would come, with us reporters playing the most unlikely role as his ventilator. Being intubated to a bunch of journalists he's never trusted was never going to end well.