Trump justifies calling coronavirus “Chinese virus”
The president and Republican leaders have been strongly criticized for referring to coronavirus as the Chinese virus or Wuhan virus, reflecting where the pandemic began.
The Guardian’s David Smith, at the White House coronavirus task force briefing now still going on in Washington, just asked Donald Trump about his use once gain, just this morning on Twitter, of the title “Chinese virus”.
Trump defended it. “China was putting out information that our military gave it to them. We have to call it where it came from, it came from China,” he said.
But would that perpetuate stigma, Smith asked in his follow-up, against China and the Chinese?
Trump said: “Saying that our military gave it to them, that creates a stigma,” he said. The race to the bottom continues.
A prominent Chinese official last week promulgated the inaccurate notion that coronavirus may have been brought to the city of Wuhan (where the outbreak began) by the US army.
Here’s the relevant tweet from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao.
Ah, Trump now returning to familiar territory, slamming the mainstream media for not praising his and his administration’s approach to tackling coronavirus.
“Lives do not come back” – Potus
The man who first said words to the effect that the coronavirus was a Democratic party hoax and a media fantasy just emphasized once again, in this new week for Donald Trump, how seriously everyone needs to take the virus. And how seriously he is taking it.
“We are looking at saving the maximum number of lives. Everything else will come back, lives do not come back,” the president just said at the White House briefing now ongoing.
“This is a pandemic,” he stated. Then he stepped outside the truth.
“I have always viewed it as very serious,” he said.
As the Guardian’s David Smith wrote in that article:
Trump himself constantly downplayed the threat and contradicted his own health officials, asserting that the virus was “very much under control” and infections were “going very substantially down, not up”. On 26 February, he confidently claimed that total cases will be “close to zero”.
He also accused Democrats of using the coronavirus as “their new hoax”, promised a vaccine much sooner than scientifically possible, prophesied that the virus will be killed off by warmer spring weather and kept comparing it to the common flu (though experts say coronavirus is 10 times more deadly).
But the usual playbook of deny and distract proved futile against a nimble germ without an ego.
Anthony Fauci is also urging the American public not to try to defy the virus. Fauci is a leading federal infectious diseases public health official on the White House coronavirus task force.
“Please cooperate,” he pleaded, at the White House briefing that has been going on how for about an hour.
Fauci warned that younger people who feel invincible and go out to crowded places during this crisis are not invincible but, more importantly, “what you might do is put your loved ones at risk”.
The Guardian’s David Smith is at the briefing.
‘Stop going out’
Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator on the White House task force tackling the outbreak in the US, is reiterating the government’s sweeping guidelines – 0f you’re older, stay home, if you’re young, stay out of the bars, restaurants, etc.
Younger people should “stop going out” to crowded spaces, she said. “We want Americans to do what they can today” to mitigate the effect of coronavirus, she said.
She said many people are defying the guidelines and “if we continue with that practice we will fail to contain this virus,” she said.
The federal government is recommending no gatherings of 10 people or more nationwide and urging people to work from home. People are encouraged to go out of doors and get exercise, however, while maintaining physical distance from other members of the public, however (New York has waived entry fees to state parks, for example).
Here’s the Guardian’s excellent profile of Birx, a crucial (and crucially measured, apolitical but tough) member of the task force:
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is on his way now to discuss with the Senate a huge economic stimulus package, to try to ease the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the US economy.
Donald Trump wants large numbers. Big. Have you noticed he’s stopped saying “bigly”?
No plans to close the US financial markets
“We are going to do everything to make sure Americans have access to their money, in banks, in 401Ks [pensions] and in stocks. We are keeping the markets open,” treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin just said.
The New York stock exchange closed for a short period after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, mainly because the hijacked planes that hit the World Trade Center in New York, bringing the edifice down, occurred just yards from Wall Street and the area was thick with toxic debris, smoke and dust from what became known as Ground Zero.
Mnuchin said that the most the government is contemplating at this point is possibly shortening trading hours, not shutting the markets.
For the Guardian’s dedicated business blog, click here.
“This is worse than 9/11 for the airline industry”
That’s what Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin just said at the podium at the White House coronavirus task force press briefing.
The extensive shut down of travel, both related to travel bans from between Europe and the US and Americans choosing not to travel during the crisis, has hit the aviation industry like an avalanche.
There’s talk of a $50 billion to $60 billion bailout for the US industry being under discussion.
Mnuchin will step out of the White House briefing in a few moments to talk to Senators about a huge stimulus package for the US economy. He hasn’t put back the deadline for American’s income tax returns – April 15.
However, as my colleague David Smith reports from the briefing:
Pence urges action to reduce spread of virus
Vice president Mike Pence is asking US construction companies to donate face masks to hospitals during the coronavirus crisis.
Pence is urging Americans to follow the government guidelines issued yesterday. Says if everyone follows them the US will see a “substantial reduction in the spread of the virus.”
The president just told the public he hopes to be standing up at some point and declaring “we won” against the coronavirus spread in the US.
However, less inanely, he did say his conversation with New York governor Andrew Cuomo this morning was “constructive”.
The Guardian’s David Smith is at the briefing at the White House.
Trump talking at White House coronavirus briefing
The president is at the podium, urging Americans to work from home and avoid non-essential travel, after yesterday recommending no gatherings of 10 people or more.
“By making necessary sacrifices we can protect our people and protect our economy,” he said.
Voting underway in the Florida Democratic primary. This could be the primary that delivers enough delegates to moderate candidate Joe Biden, if he wins decisively, to push him over the top with the total of pledged party delegates that mean victory or defeat in the nomination race.
This could be left-winger Bernie Sanders’s last gasp in the 2020 primary race.
Turnout will be closely-watched tonight. Sanders has disappointed throughout this race on that crucial front, compared with Biden’s latish (but crushing) comeback.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:
Veronica Richards, a 26-year-old epidemiology PhD student at the University of Florida, believes strongly that people should vote in the 2020 election to help get Donald Trump out of office.
She voted early in Florida’s primary election, but amid concerns about coronavirus, she’s struggling with whether to tell other people to go to the polls today.
“When you think about going to the polls, most of the people who work there are older women who are retired and generally probably wouldn’t be exposed to so many people,” she said.
“It’s really hard to balance encouraging people to vote and using their voice to possibly make big change and also encouraging people to go into these situations we’ve been telling them for weeks not to go into and putting people at risk.”
Richards’ dilemma underscores the difficult decision elections officials across the country are facing as they weigh public health risk against making sure everyone can vote. So far, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Maryland have all delayed their elections amid coronavirus concerns.
Ohio postponed today’s primary.