There is genuine suspense as to how he’s going to react once testing ramps up, the true extent of the disease becomes known, and the “we stopped it” nonsense is revealed as nonsense. He’s always been hung up on numbers. It’s why he listed his fortune as the unlikely sum of $10 billion. It’s why he always used to chatter about ratings for “The Apprentice.” It’s why he obsesses over the Dow and his job approval rating — among Republicans, since the overall rating has never been great. He likes big numbers.
He’s got another big number coming soon on coronavirus. He won’t like this one.
Today at the CDC he touted the fact that there are only 240 cases nationwide, per Fox News’s reporting. As I said in the last post, there were 17 in Italy two weeks ago and there are 4,600 now, and that’s despite the fact that entire towns were locked down to try to contain its spread. Tens of thousands of cases here soon-ish seems like a reasonable expectation. And he won’t be able to suppress those numbers, in case that’s how he’s inclined. The labs around the country that are testing for the disease will be compiling totals; those totals will be given to local officials and to reporters.
What’s the White House message going to be after “we stopped it”? “Most cases are mild”? Maybe he’ll just out-and-out deny their veracity, like he does when polls (including Fox News polls) post bad numbers for him. Imagine Mike Pence and the CDC having to somehow manage the public’s need for accurate information with Trump’s need for happy talk.
As for the cruise ship that’s currently off the coast of California, and which had coronavirus tests delivered via helicopter yesterday: Out of 46 numbers — sorry, I mean people — tested so far, nearly half are positive. Nineteen are crew members. Trump says in the clip below that he gave Pence authority to decide how to handle it even though he prefers that the ship remain offshore lest the sick passengers add to “the numbers” here. Pence said this afternoon that the ship will be brought in to a non-commercial port this weekend.
Which is smart, since cruise-ship quarantines seem to backfire.
Just a thought, but … maybe it’s time to stop going on cruises for awhile? I realize what that’s going to do to the hospitality industry (it’s already happening) but the industry is going to be damaged anyway if its staff can’t work due to infection. Austin made a hard but very rational decision this afternoon in canceling SXSW, choosing (a) a major economic hit over (b) risking a major economic hit and a massive local public health crisis by holding the event and letting sick but asymptomatic attendees seed the city with coronavirus. Pretty straightforward.
Others should learn from their example that large concentrations of people are a bad idea right now. For some, it’s too late:
Important Update: Coronavirus
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 6, 2020
Lots of members of Congress attend AIPAC. Exit question: How bad are “the numbers” going to be for the Dow next week?
“I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship” — Trump explains that he doesn’t want to let people off the Grand Princess cruise ship because he doesn’t want the number of coronavirus cases in the country to go up pic.twitter.com/ELhZDjiZW9
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 6, 2020