A firestorm has erupted over remarks about the coronavirus made by Donald Trump last night on “Hannity.” He claims he has a “hunch” that the official death rate of 3.4 percent released by the WHO earlier this week is “false.”
As usual, much of the coverage exaggerates the stupidity of Trump’s remarks. The president’s off-the-cuff thoughts about the coronavirus have been twisted to be shown in the worst possible light.
In fact, Trump should keep his mouth shut and let others brief the public about the disease. His mixed-up facts, inexact statements, and ignorance could cause confusion — exactly what isn’t needed at this point in what is clearly an epidemic.
“Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, and this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor,” Trump said.
“You never hear about those people. So you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and — or virus. So you just can’t do that,” he continued. “So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work but they get better.”
The president is wrong. In fact, the WHO number uses well-established protocols to include estimates of those who have already contracted the disease but might not be showing symptoms and don’t get tested. The organization also tries to include deaths that have been attributed to another cause — pneumonia for example — where the initial infection was due to the coronavirus. Most deaths among older people who contract the coronavirus are the result of contracting pneumonia.
The 3.4 percent mortality rate is the current rate. The president’s “hunch” notwithstanding, it could go up or down in the next weeks and months, but it will be based on solid science — not hunches.
“When you do have a death — like you had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California, believe you had one in New York — you know, all of a sudden, it seems like 3 or 4 percent, which is a very high number, as opposed to a fraction of 1 percent,” Trump told Hannity. Although 11 cases have been reported in New York, no deaths in the state have been officially attributed to the coronavirus.
“But again, they don’t know about the easy cases because the easy cases don’t go to the hospital. They don’t report to doctors or the hospital, in many cases,” Trump said. “So I think that that number is very high. I think the number, personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent.”
That’s a mixed bag of facts, speculation, and outright unintentional disinformation. Trump could get a lot of people killed just by going off at the mouth without thinking.
The reaction of the media has been entertaining. They’re as ignorant as Trump about the disease. Here’s Politico’s take on what Trump said.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday night spun a web of theories minimizing the coronavirus’ threat to Americans, accusing the World Health Organization of dispensing inaccurate facts about the outbreak and suggesting that those with the disease could be safe going to work.
During expansive remarks on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program, the president continued to break with public health officials’ more dire messaging regarding the international crisis and forcefully contradicted the WHO, which earlier in the week pegged the global mortality rate for the coronavirus at 3.4 percent.
One problem: Trump never said people would be “safe” going to work. He said that people who have mild symptoms don’t know they have the coronavirus and end up going to work.
Trump called them out for it.
I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work. This is just more Fake News and disinformation put out by the Democrats, in particular MSDNC. Comcast covers the CoronaVirus situation horribly, only looking to do harm to the incredible & successful effort being made!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2020
The word “safe” was never uttered by the president.
Trump would do well to be far more exact and explicit in his pronouncements on the coronavirus. Every word he utters carries meaning and import far beyond what he is apparently aware of. Going “off the cuff” with Hannity isn’t the best way to get information on the epidemic out to the public. And it doesn’t help when the president says things that are unintentionally misleading or just plain false.