Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is the smartest man in the room when it comes to the coronavirus, at least in his own mind. During an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday following President Trump’s press conference with the CDC, Rahm Emanuel’s brother ridiculed the president’s level of knowledge of the emerging pandemic.
Just in case you didn’t believe that absolutely everything is political these days, look at the narratives that are developing around a deadly serious public health issue. Democrats spent much of Wednesday criticizing the Trump administration’s efforts in dealing with COVID-19 and lobbing personal insults. Having only arrived back in the U.S. from a trip to India a matter of hours before, he participated in a press conference surrounded by the key figures in dealing with the virus. Anne Schuchat, the Principal Deputy Director of CDC and Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, along with Vice-President Mike Pence were among the officials present.
The president did a good job, in my opinion, delivering some information to quell growing fear among Americans over the spread of the disease and how the United States is preparing for a larger outbreak, should it happen. The long knives came out, as usual, and his critics in the media almost universally criticized his words. President Trump is known for punching back and he showed some restraint as he answered questions from the press. When they pursued his reactions to divisive and ugly statements from Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (cryin’ Chuck), he defended his administration’s work to date and did his best to reassure that they are being pro-active.
Ezekiel Emanuel is a special adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). He is a former White House health advisor to President Obama. He was on MSNBC’s Hardball and was only too happy to trash the president’s remarks.
“I found most of what he said a little incoherent,” Emanuel said, pointing to Trump’s admission that he was shocked by the number of people who die from the common flu annually.
“You know, [Trump’s] a guy that admitted that he’s surprised that 25,000 to 69,000 people each year die of the flu. That just tells you how little he actually knows about public health and about the health of the American public,” he added. “He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation. We don’t know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu.
“We know one thing. It is actually more communicable than the flu. It passes between people very, very easily.”
"I found most of what he said incoherent."
— Hardball (@hardball) February 27, 2020
No single country in the world is totally prepared to handle a respirary disease spread through airborne germs. The U.S. has the infrastructure and resources available to contain it and treat the symptons better than most other countries. That is the message President Trump was delivering yesterday. He was acting to calm fears and deliver hope that a widespread outbreak can be avoided. No one has any way of knowing what will happen in the next days or weeks but the point is that the government is using all available resources to keep on top of it. Trump said the adminstration is working with China and other countries as well as state governments here at home. While the CDC has said an outbreak is inevitable, the actual magnitude of it has not been determined. The president sounded a more optimistic note than the CDC has but that is to be expected from the president. His role is to keep people calm while encouraging vigilence and preparation. The press sees that as a sign of weakness and/or ignorance.
I have to say, I don’t know what else the president could have said. He has named Mike Pence as the person to oversee the COVID-19 operations. Pence has experience from the days of the MERS outbreak in Indiana during his time as governor of that state. It was also a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. The message is that everyone should refrain from panicking but stay prepared and exercise caution. The basic precautions that we take for colds and the flu apply here – wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs and sneezes, seek medical help if symptoms develop.
Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine. Some vaccines are in developmental stages and some are awaiting funding to carry out testing on humans.
Dr. Emanuel had a strikingly different tone just a few weeks ago. At the end of January he was downplaying the seriousness of a potential pandemic and insisting that everyone should take a breath and remain calm.
“Everyone in America should take a very big breath, slow down, and stop panicking and being hysterical,” said Emanuel, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency. “We are having a little too much histrionics on this.”
“I’m actually pretty confident that we’re going to restrict the spread in the United States and people should remember not to panic,” said Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. “We need to be a little sober about it, even in China.”
“I think we need to put it into context, the death rate is much lower than for SARS,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel didn’t sound like a medical professional worried about the intelligence of President Trump or his administration’s ability to handle the situation. That was then, though, before it became politically expediant for Democrats to make it political.