President Donald Trump made yet another false claim to minimize the severity of the coronavirus crisis, claiming Sunday that the virus is under “control.”
Trump’s claim at a White House briefing – “It’s a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something we have tremendous control of” – was sharply at odds with the assessment of public health experts, including one who appeared with him at the same briefing.
Facts First: Experts say the US does not have the virus even close to contained. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in his own comments after Trump left the room: “The worst is yet ahead for us. It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be. We have a very, very critical point now.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed, falsely, to have the virus under control. He said in late January, soon after the US announced its first confirmed case, that “we have it totally under control.” He said in late February, when the number of confirmed US cases was in the low dozens, that “we have it very much under control in this country.”
Other senior members of Trump’s team have made similar false claims. Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, has said that the virus “is contained,” while Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, has said that it “is being contained.”
Trump’s latest version of the claim came as states and cities were taking major steps to try to prevent the spread of the virus, including closing schools, bars and restaurants, and as the number of confirmed US cases continued to increase. It has now passed the 3,000 mark.
After the Sunday briefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that, for the next eight weeks, people cancel or postpone events anywhere in the country consisting of 50 or more people.
Asked earlier on Sunday by CNN’s Brianna Keilar if hundreds of thousands of Americans could die from coronavirus, Fauci said, “Yes, it is possible. Our job, our challenge is to try and make that not happen. But to think, if we go about our daily lives and not worry about everything, that it’s not going to happen – it could happen. And it could be worse.”
Fauci said on CBS on Sunday that the outcome for the US will “depend on the effectiveness of our response.”
“It is correct that the infections are going to go up. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t do the maximum peak and actually blunts. Within that blunt there will be many new infections. We want to make sure we don’t get to that really bad peak,” Fauci said.
The virus and young people
Trump made another statement at the Sunday briefing that did not match the message of public health experts and of others in Trump’s administration.
Trump said: “Young people, people of good health, and – groups of people – just are not strongly affected.” He continued, “Elderly people that are not well, not well in certain respects, are really a very dangerous group. We have to watch them.”
While it is true that elderly people and people with pre-existing health problems are at the highest risk of death or critical illness from the coronavirus, experts have emphasized that young people and people without a history of illness are also at risk.
“Younger people should be concerned for two reasons. You are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill. Even though when you look at the total numbers, it’s overwhelmingly weighted towards the elderly and those with underlying conditions. But the virus isn’t a mathematical formula. There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill. So protect yourself,” Fauci said on CNN.
Fauci went on to explain that young people can carry the virus without getting seriously ill themselves, bringing it “to a person who would bring it to a person that would bring it to your grandfather, your grandmother, or your elderly relative.”
After Trump left the room on Sunday, Pence urged people who are not in “a high-risk category” to “remember those people around you who may well be. Remember those seniors with underlying health conditions.”