By Liam Sullivan
The worldwide crisis revolving around the coronavirus has been raging for the first four months of the new decade. It was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11th, genuinely surprising many Americans who assumed the coronavirus would never affect them. While the virus was spreading through Asia and Europe at an alarming pace, Americans were not preparing themselves for the inevitability of coronavirus’s spread throughout the United States. The main reason for this was the many people, and specifically President Trump, publicly downplaying the effect the virus could have on the United States. In statements during press conferences, interviews, and on his Twitter account, President Trump has downplayed the national impact that coronavirus might have since the very beginning.
When coronavirus first arrived in the United States, there were around 10-15 confirmed cases. During a press conference held by the White House on February 26th, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, stated they were expecting to see many more cases in the United States, and it was very important to prepare the country for that inevitability. Dr. Tony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made similar cautionary statements. President Trump took this press conference as an opportunity to say the following: “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.” This statement directly contradicted those given by Drs. Schuchat and Fauci. Anyone who watched only highlights of that press conference or did not hear the two doctors give their statements could take the President’s word at face value and decide that the coronavirus is nothing to worry about.
Trump’s prediction of the 15 confirmed cases going down to zero had not come true. Instead the United States quickly became the country with the most active cases of coronavirus by a very large margin. The damage of President Trump’s previous statements had already been done. The nation was embarrassingly underprepared, with the economy taking a huge hit in response to the widespread social distancing rules.
President Trump continued making dangerous public statements including those about a month later on March 24th. By this time, much of the country was shut down with only essential employees working. President Trump decided that this economic disaster was more serious than the coronavirus pandemic, tweeting “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” During his Town Hall on Fox News, President Trump proposed that the economy would be able to open around Easter time, a date less than three weeks later, in direct opposition to suggestions of health officials.
President Trump does not realize the consequences of publicly downplaying the severity of this crisis. Many people in this country are highly influenced by the President’s statements. With Easter coming and going, it would not be surprising to hear of people having Easter gatherings, ignoring the potential harm caused by not properly socially distancing. The coronavirus is particularly dangerous due to a long incubation period, causing people to unknowingly spread the virus to others who may be more susceptible. We must do everything in our power to limit the spread.
If President Trump wants to get the economy up and running again, he must ensure people know how serious this virus is and stop spreading misinformation. His haste to return to “normal” will cause it to last far longer. Without following proper social distancing now, our economy and people will suffer far longer than necessary.