The Trump administration is in full cover-up mode, only this time what it’s trying to cover up is not Donald Trump’s personal corruption, but a disease outbreak that’s not even centered in the United States. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney spread the official message at the Conservative Political Action Conference, aggressively downplaying concerns and telling the audience that press coverage of coronavirus is because “they think that this is going to be what brings down the president.”
Turning to the thing that most concerns his boss about coronavirus, Mulvaney kinda-sorta-joked that “What I might do to calm the markets is tell the people to turn the televisions off for 24 hours.” Because people won’t be worried if they don’t know what’s going on, har har har!
“This is not Ebola,” Mulvaney said. “It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS.” Those diseases, he pointed out correctly, have much higher percentages of fatality than COVID-19. Which is true. But, as Mulvaney admitted, “It’s much easier to get than Ebola.” To that point, over the two-year Ebola outbreak in 2014 to 2016, there were fewer than 30,000 cases, 11 of them in the United States. So far, there have been nearly 80,000 cases of COVID-19 formally identified, and it’s not over. Just a wee small difference, there, and one that Mulvaney did not get into.
“But this is something we deal with. This is something we know how to deal with,” Mulvaney said. The concern here is that the “we” of the Trump administration is dealing with it by throttling information (which Mulvaney denied) and putting politicians over scientists.
“We are the best country in the world prepared to do this,” Mulvaney continued. “We have been preparing for this for years.” He did not mention that part of that preparation included Trump eliminating the public health team responsible for pandemics, and slashing funding for preventing global disease outbreaks.
“Are you gonna see some schools shut down? Probably,” Mulvaney said. “Will you see impacts on public transportation? Sure.” That’s his comforting rendition of “nothing to see here, turn off your televisions and invest in the markets, it’s not Ebola.” Pardon me for not being enormously comforted that this administration is going to have a stellar response.