After more than two months of slow-walking and trivialization, Donald Trump is finally taking the perils of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak more seriously. The declaration of a national emergency is not only an acknowledgement of the potential threat posed by the virus, but also an implicit admission that his previous approach was pitifully ineffective and even dangerous.
While it is long past time to begin treating this as the pandemic that it is, Trump is still missing some critical aspects that can have a profound impact. Notably, Trump is setting a terrible example for personal behavior in the midst of a viral outbreak. Despite having been in close proximity to people known to have tested positive for COVID-19, Trump continues to refuse to self-quarantine, or even be tested. His first exposure occurred at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) a couple of weeks ago. That resulted in several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz, self-quarantining. More recently Trump met with the Prime Minister of Brazil and his press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, who has tested positive.
Under any other circumstances, someone with the exposure Trump has had would voluntarily terminate his contacts with others. The possibility that he was infected would make such contacts too dangerous to continue, not just for those persons, but everyone they encounter afterward. That’s precisely how viral pandemics spread. Trump is also putting his senior staff and other government officials at risk. Imagine how that could affect the nation if numerous people responsible for critical government management were simultaneously sidelined.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health is a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force. On Friday he told told Willie Geist of MSNBC that anyone who had the interactions Trump has had should isolate themselves for two weeks. Dr. Fauci also told Congress that the Trump administration’s testing protocols are “a failing.”
So why would Trump so brazenly reject the guidance provided by every medical expert? Perhaps because it’s consistent with his prior attempts to diminish the severity of the outbreak. He has stubbornly insisted that there really isn’t much of a problem at all. As the virus was spreading, Trump said that there were few victims and the number was going down. He told the nation that it would simply go away. And he recklessly compared it the common flu. Never mind that the fatality rate is 300 times higher for the COVID-19. His purpose was to shield himself from criticism while blaming Democrats for inciting panic and conspiring to use the crisis to hurt him politically.
Not surprisingly, that is exactly the same purpose that has been driving reporting on Fox News. Everyone from Sean Hannity to Laura Ingraham to Trish Regan to Lou Dobbs to the “Curvy Couch” potatoes of Fox and Friends, have been downplaying the risks while hyping the alleged politicization by Democrats. And both Fox and Trump have been frantically shifting blame to others and falsely criticizing the Obama administration for it’s handling of the H1N1 virus in 2009. What that has to do with the current crisis is obviously just a dodge to attack Trump’s perennial nemesis. For the record, Obama declared a health emergency in the first month of the H1N1 outbreak and tested a million Americans. Trump has tested only about 10,000 people in more than two months.
Trump has been actively seeking to keep reports of infections and fatalities low in order to avoid publicity that makes him look bad and adversely affect his reelection prospects. He even said that he opposed allowing Americans from a cruise ship to disembark because it would increase virus stats. What’s more, the Trump administration refused to the use the COVID-19 test developed by the World Health Organization. These actions are reported to have taken to tamp down the numbers. This, of course, delayed testing in the U.S. by crucial weeks. Trump is clearly more worried about his PR than human lives.
There are a lot of things that the administration can do now to address this crisis and protect the American people. Congress is working on bipartisan legislation to help workers, businesses, and healthcare professionals. But Trump’s bragging and paying tribute to himself is not among them. The virus doesn’t care about his narcissistic rambling.
However, a simple thing Trump can do would be to follow the advice of his own experts. He needs to immediately self-quarantine to prevent further viral infections. And he needs to be tested to give confidence to the nation that he hasn’t become infected himself. He needs to do these things for all of the reasons that healthcare experts have enumerated. But he also needs to do them to set an example for the nation and the world. His obstinance is irrational, counterproductive, and childish. In other words, so very Trumpian.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.