US President Donald Trump thinks he’s doing a fabulous job getting the country through the coronavirus crisis. He’s more than happy to boast about it.
“One of the things I did is I closed down the borders to China and to other areas that are very badly affected and really having a lot of troubles. ... I closed them down very early, against the advice of almost everybody, and we’ve been given rave reviews.” [March 6]
“No, I’m not concerned at all. No, I’m not. No, we’ve done a great job.” [March 7]
“Our team is doing a great job with CoronaVirus!” [March 11]
“I’d rate it [our response] a 10. I think we’ve done a great job.” [March 16]
“My administration has done a job on really working across government and with the private sector, and it’s been incredible. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, I have to say.” [March 29]
But Trump spent weeks, if not months, downplaying the seriousness of the virus while pushing his political agenda of boosting his own brand and trying to shut down US borders.
In fact, the president really didn’t want to do much of anything about the virus. He tried to assure people that it would be gone by April. Nothing to see here.
On Feb. 10, he repeatedly predicted ― at a meeting with governors, at a campaign rally and in a Fox Business interview ― that the coronavirus would no longer be a problem by April. He then made this claim at least three more times a few days later.
“Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do ― you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat ― as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases ― 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” [Feb. 10]
“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” [Feb. 10]
“I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon. You know in April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather. And that’s a beautiful date to look forward to.” [Feb. 10]
“We think and we hope, based on all signs that the problem goes away in April.” [Feb. 13]
“There’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm ― historically, that has been able to kill the virus. So we don’t know yet; we’re not sure yet.” [Feb. 14]
“I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus.” [Feb. 14]
On Feb. 10, there were 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Now there are nearly 200,000. And on Tuesday, the death toll in the US surpassed 3,000, making the virus more deadly than the 9/11 terrorist attacks that reshaped much of American life.
Medical experts never agreed with Trump’s rosy prediction. But as usual, science didn’t stop Trump from saying whatever he wanted.
“We don’t know a lot about this virus,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said on Feb. 13. “This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission.”
“On Feb. 10, there were 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Now there are more than 174,000.”
Much of the US economy is now shut down as people work from home and practice social distancing in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Medical experts say it will get worse before it gets better.
On Tuesday, the White House said that in a best-case scenario, as many as 240,000 Americans could die from COVID-19.
But even amid the rising number of cases, Trump has continued to insist that everything is going well. As recently as last week, he said he wanted the country “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” which is on April 12.
Health experts have warned against easing restrictions too early.
During an online COVID-19 briefing last week, Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, dismissed Trump’s Easter target.
“I just want to say on behalf of everyone I know in the business, that is literally out of the question,” Redlener said. “This cannot happen. It should not happen. We actually should be increasing the restrictions for some period of time.”
A group of more than 800,000 physicians with the Council of Medical Specialty Societies also wrote to the White House urging continued social distancing measures.
“Federal, state, and local governments should only set a date for lifting nationwide social distancing restrictions consistent with assessments by public health and medical experts,” they wrote. “Lifting restrictions sooner will gravely jeopardise the health of all Americans and extend the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Sunday, Trump endorsed extending social distancing guidelines through the end of April, saying his Easter timeline was “aspirational.”
At the same press conference, he wondered why hospitals, which usually don’t need so many masks and ventilators, are suddenly saying they do. Instead of realising that the need for medical equipment has jumped exponentially with the spread of the coronavirus, Trump offered up a conspiracy theory: that the ventilators and masks that hospitals are asking for might be “going out the back door.”
Chris D’Angelo contributed reporting.