WASHINGTON (AP) — Groundless assurances keep coming from President Donald Trump, a rosy outlier on the science of the coronavirus…
WASHINGTON (AP) — Groundless assurances keep coming from President Donald Trump, a rosy outlier on the science of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s been that way since before the virus spread widely in the United States, when he supposed that the warmer weather of April might have it soon gone, a prospect the public health authorities said was not affirmed by the research. Now he’s been talking about a country revved up again by Easter, April 12, while his officials gingerly play down that possibility from the same White House platform.
A look at some recent statements during a week when the U.S. rose to No. 1 globally in the number of people infected by COVID-19 since the pandemic began:
TRUMP: “There is tremendous hope as we look forward and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” — briefing Tuesday.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: “The light at the end of tunnel may be a train coming at us.” — news conference Thursday.
THE FACTS: In this darkness, they may both be right about the light ahead.
Pandemics pass, though they may exact a terrible cost, as this one is doing. Public health leaders also affirm the truth in Pelosi’s statement that a train will bear down on the nation before it’s over “if you do not heed the advice of the scientific community about isolation … and avoiding as much communal contact as possible — in fact none.”
Yet the California Democrat, like Trump, said better days will come. She said the know-how and commitment of scientists and the money approved by Washington to find a vaccine and cure some day do constitute “light at the end of the tunnel.”
The U.S. now has well over 100,000 cases and more than 1,700 deaths, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University, based on figures reported by governments and health authorities.
TRUMP: “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” — Fox News virtual town hall Tuesday.
TRUMP: “We have to open up our country, I’m sorry.” — conference call with governors Tuesday, audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
THE FACTS: To be clear, the federal government did not close the country and won’t be reopening it. He’s encouraging governors to do so. And against the sentiment of public health experts, he’s contending that many people can soon go back to their workplaces while still staying a safe distance from each other. The disease is highly contagious.
Restrictions on public gatherings, workplaces, mobility, store operations, schools and more were ordered by states and communities, not Washington. The federal government has imposed border controls; otherwise its social-distancing actions are mostly recommendations, not mandates.
On relaxing restrictions and returning to normal, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told CNN on Wednesday: “You’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline.” He told that day’s White House briefing: “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”
TRUMP: “I mean, we have never closed the country before, and we have had some pretty bad flus, and we have had some pretty bad viruses.” — Fox News virtual town hall Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He’s making a bad comparison.
The new coronavirus is not the same as the annual flu because it’s a disease that hadn’t been seen before in humans. For that reason, human populations lack immunity to the virus. It can spread unchecked, except by measures such as social distancing.
TRUMP: “Over an eight day span, the United States now does more testing than what South Korea (which has been a very successful tester) does over an eight week span. Great job!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: The comparison with South Korea isn’t very illuminating. The U.S. has more than six times the population of South Korea, about 330 million compared with about 50 million. Yet South Korea is testing about four times more people as a percentage of its population.
The two countries are also at different stages in their outbreaks. Daily case counts are rapidly rising in the U.S., where the coronavirus took hold later on. In South Korea, the curve has been leveling off.
The U.S. count is going up fast in part because the virus is spreading and in part because of a test shortage that lasted weeks, as well as a backlog in laboratories reporting results. In that time, Trump falsely asserted that anyone who wanted or needed to get the test could.
South Korea’s coronavirus response has been marked by an emphasis on widespread testing that earned global praise. But even in that country the government is stressing social distancing measures because…
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