Despite a hostile press, Trump's coronavirus press conference hit the right notes
President Trump held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus. Although many in the assembled press wanted to play "gotcha," Trump struck a great balance between relaxed and serious and refused to play the media's game. It was the perfect mien to reassure a nation that, while nothing serious is happening now, our federal government will be there should the situation change.
Trump explained that Vice President Mike Pence will henceforth be the point person on the coronavirus issue. When he was governor in Indiana, Pence dealt with MERS in 2014, so he already has executive experience in managing an infectious disease. He also presents as an incredibly steady and competent person, which is reassuring.
After Trump spoke, he handed the microphone over to Pence, then to Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services; Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC; and Dr. Tony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. Among all those speakers, including Trump himself, several points became clear:
- Trump's January decision to refuse entry to some airplanes arriving from China (which the Democrats lambasted as xenophobic) bought America precious time to get systems in place and to work on ways to limit exposure and treat patients.
- The federal government is working closely with state and city governments to have action plans in case the disease escalates.
- A vaccination may be ready in a year for the next flu season.
- Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, is already being tested in randomized trials and may work against this version of the coronavirus.
- Nobody in the federal government is panicking, but all are working diligently to get systems in place in case the situation changes.
- No one knows the future when it comes to the virus's trajectory in America.
Trump had a few extra points to make:
- He's working closely with President Xi of China because the latter is desperate to end the disease.
- Forty-two of the cases in America were cruise ship passengers, so they should not be confused with other people who caught the illness here or brought it here directly.
- He's perfectly willing to take more money if Congress wants to give it to him, especially after fighting with Congress to get money for the wall.
- The Democrats are behaving shamelessly in politicizing this issue and panicking Americans, instead of working together to fight an infectious illness that knows no party lines.
A video of the press conference is at the bottom of the post and makes for interesting watching if you haven't yet seen it. Meanwhile, here are a few other points to think about:
Trump, in a calm, seemingly masterful way, is carrying out one of the government's core functions, which is the prevention and control of infectious diseases. This should inspire public confidence.
Trump reminded the assembled press that the oronavirus is similar to the flu, which kills up to 70,000 Americans a year (although he glossed over the fact that it currently has a higher mortality rate than the flu). Dr. Schuchat specified what to do:
The coronavirus that we're talking about is a respiratory virus. It's spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza. It's spread through coughs and sneezes. So those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu, are important here. Covering your cough, staying home when you're sick, and washing your hands. Tried and true, not very exciting measures, but really important ways that you can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
Use those disinfectant wipes stores place near shopping carts, which have truly filthy handles.
Speaking of filthy, one of the problems with coronavirus is that, even though it's an upper respiratory disease, it's also spread by fecal matter. It will be a disaster in places that don't have good fecal matter control: China (primitive toilets and no culture of hand-washing); India (which is working hard to bring toilets to people, but it's slow going); Africa (a world drowning in fecal matter); and San Francisco (also drowning in fecal matter). San Francisco's mayor, London Breed, was wise to declare a state of emergency. Of course, if S.F. handles the problem the way it did AIDS, it will refuse to take steps against disease-causing behaviors because of political correctness.
This is not 1348, nor is it 1918. We will survive this, using commonsense matters both to avoid getting an infection and to avoid infecting others. And at a certain point, just trust in the blessing of living in 21st-century America.