For Donald Trump, coronavirus is just one more excuse to attack Democrats and the media. It sure isn’t a reason to interrupt his golfing. Trump spent the weekend golfing in Florida, then launched into Monday morning by tweeting, “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”
That’s the same surgeon general who claimed that Trump “sleeps less than I do and he's healthier than what I am,” so, you know, he may not be the validator Trump is imagining here.
Fear not, though. While Trump himself was golfing in Florida, “top officials met in the Situation Room in what has become a daily briefing and strategy session amid the growing crisis,” The Washington Post reports. And honestly, Trump’s absence is a good thing for an effective response. Trump seems genuinely to believe that this is a situation manufactured to hurt him politically.
”There is growing tension among Trump administration officials, who now view the rapidly spreading outbreak as a black swan event that could consume the president’s fourth year in office, even as Trump remains reluctant to see much cause for concern,” according to the Post’s White House sources. Trump insists he will even continue having campaign rallies—though none are scheduled this week—despite now having come two degrees away from a coronavirus-infected person when he shook the hand of American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp after Schlapp had shaken the hand of the CPAC attendee who was subsequently diagnosed with the disease.
After all, it’s just the “Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party” making COVID-19 an issue. Apparently the reach of the U.S. media and the Democratic Party extends all the way to Italy, where 16 million people are under quarantine.
The reality, of course, is that—as the surgeon general suggested—even if coronavirus becomes an unchecked pandemic, the vast majority of people will not die from it. But it turns out that it’s a problem even to those who survive if hundreds of thousands or millions of people become seriously ill and somewhere from 1% to 3.4% die. So saying that “the average American” faces a low risk is … misleading in itself. Like, “Yay, I personally will survive, it’s just my elderly family members in danger! Woo-hoo!” And, “Yay, I personally will survive, but my kid’s school may be closed for weeks and I’ll face the choice between going to work and exposing myself or staying home and losing pay! Awesome!”
And having an administration led by someone who has undermined the competence and readiness of public health response and thinks the risk here is to his political prospects is not exactly putting us in a good position to weather the storm.