Coronavirus: Trump contradicts health expert who warned young people 'are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill'

President's false claims conflict top health officials in his own administration

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 16 March 2020 00:46 GMT
Devin Nunes contradicts health officials tells people to go out to eat

Moments after Donald Trump declared that the US has “tremendous control” over the coronavirus pandemic, one of his top officials announced that “the worst is yet ahead of us”.

Dr Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases the National Institutes of Health, said “it is how we respond to that challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be”.

Earlier today, Dr Fauci warned that young people “are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill”.

At a Sunday press conference, the president falsely claimed that “young people, people of good health, and groups of people, just are not strongly affected”.

The president’s often-inflated sense of security has frequently contradicted officials within his own administration, as the number of confirmed patients in the US rises to at least 3,300.

He also told Americans to “relax”.

“We’re doing great,” he said. “It will pass.”

The president’s conflicting statements have done little to calm a panicked stock market, his go-to metric for his success, while his claims have frequently been echoed by his Republican allies on right-wing media.

From the outbreak’s onset in January, he told reporters that he wasn’t concerned about the spread elevating to a pandemic because the US has it “totally under control” and its impact in the US will be “just fine”.

A few weeks later, as the virus spread to nearly 80,000 people, he told his supporters that the virus would “miraculously go away” in April. He repeated that claim in late February and said his administration was taking an “aggressive” response.

This week, the president announced an unprecedented travel ban on most people entering the country from Europe, despite warnings from health officials that the virus threat has already embedded itself into communities across the US, bracing for impact to a public health system that’s already on the brink.

He has routinely contradicted warnings and statements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr Fauci, who criticised the president for disbanding a White House pandemic team in 2018 -- which the president has denied doing.

After he declared a national emergency on Friday, activating millions of dollars in relief available to state and local governments, the president shunned responsibility for disbanding the national security pandemic response team, saying “I didn’t do it” after calling a reporter’s question “nasty”.

Days earlier, Dr Fauci “it would be nice” if the team was still in place

The president has frequently struggled to answer why exactly he chose to close the office. He told reporters last month: “I’m a businessperson. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”

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