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Trump on coronavirus: The flu is worse

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
·4 min read
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President Trump on Monday attempted to dismiss coronavirus fears with a misleading tweet comparing the virus causing the global health crisis to the seasonal flu.

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” Trump tweeted. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

Trump’s tweeted thought experiment came after trading on the New York Stock Exchange was temporarily halted as stocks plunged more than 2,000 points, a 7 percent drop that triggered an automatic pause.

In fact, many things are shut down. Columbia and Princeton Universities were among the latest to cancel classes or move them online Monday, and hundreds of conferences, conventions and public gatherings have been canceled, including the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

The president blamed the stock market dive on a fall in the price of oil, as Saudi Arabia and Russia are aggressively competing for market share as an economic slowdown looms.

“That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!” he tweeted, adding: “Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!”

President Trump speaks as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (left) and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield (right) look on at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta on Friday. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)
President Trump speaks as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, right, look on at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta on Friday. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

While it’s true that tens of thousands of people die from the flu every year — a statistic about which Trump repeatedly has expressed amazement — the coronavirus appears to be far more lethal to those who are infected. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization said that 3.4 percent of reported coronavirus patients have died worldwide.

“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing on March 3. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.” (In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity the following day, Trump called the 3.4 percent fatality rate for coronavirus a “false number.”)

And while there are widely available treatments and vaccines for the flu, there are none for the coronavirus.

That did not prevent Trump from working the rope line after arriving in Orlando Monday morning after spending the weekend golfing at Mar-a-Lago.

On "Fox & Friends," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president is not concerned he might contract the coronavirus, and has no plans to stop holding re-election rallies.

“I’ll tell you what, with our president, this man who doesn't sleep and who I have seen work 15, 16 hours a day every day, I have no problem thinking that he is going to be just fine and just healthy,” Grisham said.

“The president of the United States, as we all know, is quite a hand washer,” she added. “He uses hand sanitizer all the time. So he’s not concerned about this at all.”

In a visit to the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta Friday, Trump falsely claimed that “anybody that needs a test gets a test” for coronavirus.

That assertion came after Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump appointed to head the administration’s coronavirus task force, admitted that the United States does not have enough coronavirus test kits, and that it would be a “matter of weeks” before the tests would be “broadly available.”

In California, the Grand Princess cruise ship that had been stranded off the coast for several days, with passengers confined to their cabins, was scheduled to dock Monday at a cargo port in Oakland to allow passengers to disembark. More than 20 passengers and crew have tested positive for the virus.

Trump said on Friday that he opposed letting the passengers off the ship, because it would affect the total figure on the number of cases in the United States and make the administration look bad.

“I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump said. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship. That wasn't our fault.”

On Sunday, Trump retweeted a meme posted by his social media director, Dan Scavino. It showed Trump appearing to play a violin, with the legend “My next piece is called…Nothing can stop what’s coming.”

“Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me!” Trump wrote on his retweet.

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