Trump rebuked for downplaying coronavirus to avoid panic
Iran Press TV
Friday, 11 September 2020 2:32 PM
US President Donald Trump's explanation for downplaying the risk of coronavirus purportedly to avoid panic in the country has drawn widespread rebuke from American experts and health officials.
In a bombshell book by journalist Bob Woodward that some sections of it was released on Wednesday, Trump is said to have admitted that he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous and he deliberately tried to downplay the epidemiological crisis.
Trump's already-tarnished image was further marred after multiple excerpts and recordings from Woodward's book – Rage – came out and he is clearly heard to confess that, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
Trump said in a separate interview in early February that, "It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus," an assertion that was in sharp contrast to his public statements at the time downplaying the virus and explicitly comparing it to the influenza.
Asked on Wednesday whether he had misled the public, the US president replied, "I think if you said 'in order to reduce panic,' perhaps that's so."
Public health experts in the US reacted to Trump's explanation, saying he could have accurately presented information on the risks of the virus, while telling people what the government was doing to fight the threat and what people themselves could do.
"People are smart and pretty resilient," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "If you tell them what's going on, you can do it in a way that doesn't panic them."
Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter that the best way to minimize panic is to "honestly present the reality of the situation and reassure people that you are working to control it and minimize the fallout."
"Failing to prepare for a real threat is not responsible," he added. "Playing down a real risk that you 'know' is real is not preventing panic. It's negligence."
The downplaying of the coronavirus crisis by Trump comes as the number of lives lost due to the pandemic is inching closer to the 200,000 mark in the United States.
The new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, apparently emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, incrementally affecting the rest of the world.
The virus has so far infected 28,329,354 people worldwide, and claimed the lives of 913,922 others, according to a running count by worldometers.info.
Trump has been under fire for publicly downplaying the threat of the pandemic when it broke out in the US in late February, and his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
US media said the president had received multiple heads-ups about the looming catastrophe as the coronavirus started to spread, but failed to mobilize for a major pandemic.
The US president also spared no effort during the past months to pin the blame on the Chinese officials for the virus outbreak, claiming that the pandemic had started from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The allegation was categorically dismissed by Beijing.
The United States, the worst-hit country by the pandemic, has so far registered a record number of 6,588,163 confirmed cases and 196,328 deaths.
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