Trump risks creating more coronavirus panic by trying to prevent it

His approach of downplaying coronavirus may be aimed at minimizing political blowback and calming markets, but unrealistic statements will only make matters worse on both fronts.

At this point, if coronavirus becomes a much more significant health emergency, Trump’s early statements such as, “The 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero,” are going to be severely damaging politically. Such pronouncements will sound like President Barack Obama’s riff on the Islamic State being the “JV squad.”

As far as markets are concerned, there will be volatility as long as there is uncertainty, given the wide range of possible outcomes about the effects of coronavirus. The best way to reassure markets would be through a competent public health response. Lots of happy talk that quickly gets overtaken by events is only going to make investors more nervous.