As is the case with all issues in the Age of Trump, the national conversation about the coronavirus has become hyper-politicized, and President Trump is right in the middle of the fray, battling it out with the Democrats and the Trump-critical media to gain control of the latest political football.
On Wednesday, President Trump held a press conference to address growing concerns about the coronavirus, which has infected over 80,000 people and killed over 2,800 people, a vast majority of the cases in China. In his announcement of the televised address, Trump shamed the media, particularly MSNBC and CNN, for overhyping the epidemic for what he suggested are political purposes.
“Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & [CNN] are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible,” Trump wrote. “Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”
“I will be having a News Conference at the White House, on this subject, today at 6:00 P.M. CDC representatives, and others, will be there,” the president added in a follow-up post.
I will be having a News Conference at the White House, on this subject, today at 6:00 P.M. CDC representatives, and others, will be there. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2020
At the press conference Wednesday afternoon, Trump offered Americans some reassurance about the federal government’s preparedness and response to the epidemic.
“I have just received another briefing from a great group of talented people on the virus that is going around to various parts of the world,” said the president. “We have, through some very good early decisions — decisions that were actually ridiculed at the beginning — we closed up our borders to flights coming in from certain areas, areas that were hit by the coronavirus and hit pretty hard. And we did it very early … and it turned out to be a very good thing.”
“And the number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people,” he continued. “And that’s the way I viewed it when I made that decision. Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low. We have the greatest experts in the world — really, in the world, right here — people that are called upon by other countries when things like this happen. We’re ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.”
“As most of you know, the — the level that we’ve had in our country is very low, and those people are getting better, or we think that in almost all cases they’re [getting] better,” he said, citing the “original 15” cases in the U.S. from which the individuals are recovering.
Trump also said that he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and was given some encouraging numbers. “The infection seems to have gone down over the last two days,” said the president. He went on to note that, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, “The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year.”
In response to his press conference, MSNBC invited on World Health Organization (WHO) Special Adviser to the Director Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who promptly slammed Trump’s press conference as “ignorant.”
“He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation,” said Emanuel, slamming Trump for what he suggested was downplaying the event.
Emanuel said we do not have sufficient data on the mortality rate yet to making any declarative statements about the deadliness of the virus and that comparing it to the flu was potentially misleading.
“We don’t know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu,” he said, as reported by Newsweek. “We know one thing, it actually is more communicable than the flu, it passes between people very, very easily.”
Experts believe the mortality rate is around 2.5 to 3%, but could also be lower if mild cases are not being reported, Emanuel explained.
As The Daily Wire reported, during his press conference Wednesday, Trump cited a recent report from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that ranked the U.S. extremely highly on a variety of factors related to fighting pandemics. The 140 GHS Index ranked countries according to the following seven categories:
- Prevention: Prevention of the emergence or release of pathogens
- Detection and Reporting: Early detection and reporting for epidemics of potential international concern
- Rapid Response: Rapid response to and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic
- Health System: Sufficient and robust health system to treat the sick and protect health workers
- Compliance with International Norms: Commitments to improving national capacity, financing plans to address gaps, and adhering to global norms
- Risk Environment: Overall risk environment and country vulnerability to biological threats
The United States ranked first in all categories except Rapid Response (#2) and Risk Environment (#19).
China, on the other hand, ranked quite poorly across the board:
- Overall: #51
- Prevention: #50
- Detection and Reporting: #64
- Rapid Response: #47
- Health System: #30
- Compliance with International Norms: #141
- Risk Environment: #58