Coronavirus: Why does Trump suddenly think pandemic is not such a big deal - and why we should all be scared

News analysis: president’s about-turn adds to national confusion

Andrew Buncombe
Tuesday 24 March 2020 01:33
Donald Trump mocks Mitt Romney's coronavirus threat 'gee that's too bad'

Every time the television channels broadcast Donald Trump’s coronavirus briefings live, people rush to social media to urge them not to do so again.

The danger in doing so, they say, is too great, to the stability of the stock markets, or else the sanity of the nation.

After the president’s latest briefing, in which he suggested he was likely to roll back the federal safety protocols and travel restrictions much sooner that he had previously suggested, there were similar calls – this time to protect the health of Americans.

Just eight days ago, Trump had suggested steps such as social distancing, travel restrictions and the closure of businesses, might have to remain in place until the late summer.

“If we do a really good job, we’ll not only hold the death down to a level that is much lower than the other way, had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that,” he said, his face stern. “Could be longer than that.”

On Monday night’s briefing, from which top health official Anthony Fauci was notably absent, the president claimed he would be looking at changing those regulations in as little as two weeks.

“I’m not looking at months, I’ll tell you right now,” Trump said. “We’re going to open up our country.”

At the same time he admitted the situation was going to get worse in the US in the coming days, something experienced by other countries.

“Certainly this is going to be bad,” Trump said, agreeing with remarks his surgeon general made earlier in the day predicting a deteriorating situation.

“I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad,” Jerome Adams had told NBC News. “Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously.”

Trump also admitted the changes he was looking to make had not been supported by any health officials.

Boris Johnson announces nationwide lockdown to tackle coronavirus

“If it were up to the doctors, they may say, ‘Let’s keep it shut down. Let’s shut down the entire world’,” he said, dismissing their worries. Asked if Fauci agreed, he said he “did not ‘not agree’”.

“We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem,” said the president.

The result of Trump’s briefing was more confusion, not less. And potentially much more danger.

Esther Choo, an Oregon-based physician and healthcare advocate, tweeted: “I’ve completely lost it. Someone asked me if I’m angry. I’m beyond that. There is some emotion on the other side of angry and that’s where I am.”

The reason for the president’s rapid about turn may be no more simple than people may guess.

Covid-19 has not become any less deadly, or infectious.

John Hopkins University’s tracker suggests that 380,000 people around the world, and that while 100,000 have recovered, at least 16,000 have died.

Rather, as Axios reported earlier in the day, the president has grown tired with the advice of health officials whose recommendations will likely result in financial meltdown. That is not something he wants to have on his back as he campaigns for re-election.

“Senior Trump officials, including the president himself, have only limited patience for keeping the economy shut down,” it reported. “They are watching stocks tumble and unemployment skyrocket.”

That was what we witnessed on Monday night as Donald Trump sent conflicting messages about the virus, and his administration’s shifting response to it.

It was nothing less than perilous. That is why people want to keep him away from the cameras.

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