President Trump accused Democrats of politicizing coronavirus at a live-streamed campaign rally over the weekend, calling the fatal and highly contractable disease the party’s “new hoax”.
It comes as two genetically connected cases of COVID-19 in Washington State suggest the virus may have been spreading in the weeks since Washington announced the first US case in January. So far, hundreds in the northwestern state are under public health supervision and at least four people have died, reports the Washington Department of Health.
The president announced last week that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the nation’s response to the outbreak, barring Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, from speaking to the public before receiving approval from the White House, reported the New York Times.
President Trump said the following while speaking to a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, on February 27. (To view the entire speech related to COVID-19, start the video player at 18 minutes.)
“Now the democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say ‘How is President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa.
“One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia – that didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was not a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried it over and over. They’ve been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning. They lost. Think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax.’”
In the same speech, Trump told viewers that he suspended the entry of foreign nationals trying to enter the US after visiting China, applauding the early actions his administration took in preventing the entry and spread on American soil. He also said that “we have the best professionals in the world and we are so ready” after issuing the “first federally mandated quarantine” in over 50 years. Because of this, “people got happy”. Just three days after the South Carolina rally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is reportedly preparing for a possible coronavirus emergency declaration from Trump.
Health officials announced last week that the situation in the US is “rapidly evolving and expanding” with an expectation of community-wide spread in the near future. From coast to coast, there are at least 91 confirmed cases of the novel virus reported in 10 states, including Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during an online media briefing on February 25.
The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency. As of February 27, 46 countries have reported more than 82,000 confirmed cases, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 individuals, though that number is expected to be much higher as a majority of patients go untreated.
Much is left to be understood about COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Clinical trials for a vaccine are slated for next month as healthcare experts advise the public to practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes. However, the US Surgeon General has urged the public to stop buying masks – those should be left for essential healthcare providers.