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The Media Pounces on Trump, Coronavirus. Stop It.

We must stop making this virus and the response to it about the President. And that includes the President.

“Covid-19 is a threat not just to our health, but our democracy” screams the subhead on David Scharfenberg’s opinion piece published Saturday in the Boston Globe. Good grief.

The danger, here, is that a significant slice of the president’s supporters will decline to take precautions that could slow the the virus — or will delay testing when they get sick.

“Donald Trump’s coronavirus advice just might kill us,” The Boston Globe, March 7, 2020

What’s left unsaid, because among Boston liberals (and those outside the Route 128 bubble) it’s Gospel truth, is that this is because Trump’s supporters are stupid rubes who believe everything they see on the Internet. (But you don’t see the people who write this stuff question Mara Gay’s billionaire math.)

I’ve already written about Trump’s “hunch” on COVID-19. It’s not 100% wrong, but it’s not the best advice for a U.S. president to be giving to the nation, either. But note that Trump wasn’t giving advice in a nationally televised address. He was riffing with his buddy Sean Hannity on Hannity’s Fox News show–something he does pretty frequently. The only reason this blew up the way it did is that the liberal media pounced on it.

But to say Trump’s remarks “just might kill us,” and that it’s a “threat to our democracy” is nothing but highly refined bombast. Every irresponsible thing Scharfenberg claimed Trump said is defensible. Trump didn’t swap a lower mortality figure based on his own “hunch,” he quoted the figure used by the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. WHO found that in more developed nations, where advanced healthcare and sanitation are generally available, COVID-19 mortality rates were found to be 0.7%.

Worldwide, 21.9% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths are individuals over 80 years old; a “death rate” of 14.8%. For those under 70, this drops to 3.6% for ages 60-69, 1.3% for 50-59, and under 1% under 50 (0.2% under 40). No fatalities were recorded for children and babies under 10 years old. This data is as of February 20.

A more recent chart confirms this.

Also note that the mortality rate for SARS and MERS was 9.6% and 34% respectively.

When liberals pounce and politicize Coronavirus, this makes the president punch back. It’s who Trump is, and he’s not going to change. But the liberal media has a terrible blind spot when it comes to Trump. It’s okay for them to make Coronavirus about Trump, but not okay for him to make it about himself.

It’s bad enough that Trump has to make literally (and I mean that literally) everything about himself. But the media has to make a virus that Trump had nothing to do with spreading, all about him. The federal government has in every respect responded to the Coronavirus pandemic appropriately and proportionately, following the guidance of actual scientists.

If you want to compare Barack Obama’s response to the 2009 H1N1 “Swine Flu” pandemic, let’s do it. First, the H1N1 initially appeared in California on April 15, 2009. This gave the CDC a massive head start in collecting data. By April 21, they were working on a vaccine. By April 23, the virus had spread to Texas, again all within the U.S.

On April 28, the FDA approved a new test for H1N1. By June 25, there were at least 1 million cases reported in the U.S. The vaccine entered clinical trials by July 22, and doses of the vaccine were first administered on October 5. By year’s end, the vaccine was universally available. H1N1 continues to circulate even today, but it’s just one of the seasonal flus we see every year.

Through October, 2009, about 98,000 were hospitalized with H1N1, according to the CDC, and 3,900 had died. The large majority of deaths were in populations 18-64 years old, with a significant number of children and teens 0-17 years old.

President Obama’s acting Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a national health emergency on H1N1 on April 26, 2009. The virus was first detected in the U.S. and CDC already understood that Swine Flu was going to spread.

In comparison, COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China, on December 1, 2019, and the Chinese were less than transparent in their reporting as the virus spread. But on January 31, 2020, Trump’s White House issued a “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

Given the importance of protecting persons within the United States from the threat of this harmful communicable disease, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.  I have also determined that the United States should take all necessary and appropriate measures to facilitate orderly medical screening and, where appropriate, quarantine of persons allowed to enter the United States who may have been exposed to this virus.

At that time, the Chinese had reported over 10,000 cases and about 200 deaths. This was also about the time that the Chinese decided to change they way they recorded their case data–a cover for the fact they’d been under-reporting the severity of the outbreak since the beginning.

The New York Times reported on February 13, “on Thursday, officials added more than 14,840 new cases to the tally of the infected in Hubei Province alone, bringing the total number to 48,206, the largest one-day increase so far recorded. The death toll in the province rose to 1,310, including 242 new deaths.” Yet on March 5, the NYT only reported Trump’s tweets about China, as if his actions didn’t matter.

By focusing on Trump’s tweets and riffs, the media has made this virus response about the president. They actually hope he fails, and Trump pulled no punches tweeting so.

Every health emergency is different. Swine Flu was different than SARS, and both are different from COVID-19 in very significant ways. It’s a given that COVID-19 is going to become a major pandemic. Trump’s administration all but admitted this on January 31. Since then, the CDC has been doing exactly what they did for Swine Flu. And the timeline for a vaccine is likely going to be the same–it will be late summer before we see anything.

In the meantime, there very well could be hundreds of thousands–or more–cases in the U.S. Many of these will present as a bad cold, or seasonal flu. Remember that nobody under 10 has died, and most people under 40, with proper care, will recover. But the fear, the economic impact, the shortages, and the media hype will take its toll.

In the end, it’s the president’s job to calm us. But with Trump, that’s impossible. They always pounce on him. We must not make this virus about the president, and that warning includes the President. But he’s not the only one failing us here. The media are very culpable, and if there is a genuine panic, they need to shoulder their share of the blame.

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