Trump’s ‘delusional’ microbe meltdown

Can’t let EU in: Residents of 26 countries have been banned from travel to the USA. © Getty

Could the virus topple Trump? With the financial markets crashing, US coronavirus tests hard to find, and a rising number of infections – the US president is facing an unprecedented challenge.

Of all the nations struggling to come to terms this morning with the coronavirus pandemic, none is more panic-stricken, out-of-control, and disorganised than the so-called leader of the free world, the United States of America.

Broadway is closed. Chat show hosts wave at empty audience seats. The basketball, hockey, and soccer leagues are suspended. The markets plunged to their lowest point in over 30 years.

Vice President Mike Pence – who once wrote that smoking does not kill and that evolution is just a theory – is in charge of the response to the outbreak.

Reacting to increased fears, Donald Trump announced that travellers from continental Europe are barred from the USA. (The month-long ban will not apply to the UK, Ireland or to US citizens).

The president declared that this was the “most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history”.

But the virus is already cutting a swathe through the US. Several Utah Jazz basketball players have tested positive; at least 20 people have died at a nursing home north of Seattle.

And is unclear whether Donald Trump can cope with the escalating public health crisis.

The US lacks a centralised healthcare system – so Trump’s administration has not been able to carry out enough tests. It is impossible to know how widespread the virus currently is.

The president has also rejected expert opinion in the past (think climate crisis). Many fear his reckless approach to scientific knowledge will endanger millions of lives.

In his announcement, Trump failed to acknowledge that families had lost loved ones or that they would continue to do so.

He is a politician who relies on emotion instead of facts. According to Trump, the US is always the best at everything. But when a country is in the midst of a crisis, citizens need to know what they have to do and what is likely to happen.

He also managed to turn a pandemic into something “foreign”. Opting for this populist language, he turned a scientific tragedy into something xenophobic – blaming Europe for not doing more to stop the virus spreading.

Though Trump announced several financial measures to protect workers and businesses, the US economy has already taken a monumental hit. The travel ban made it worse. As Trump tells everyone not to worry, it looks like he might be the one panicking.

So, could the virus topple Trump?

The infection election

Yes. Political allegiances crumble when personal health and safety are at risk. Trump’s reckless approach to leadership could lead to a devastating outbreak, and Democrats are seen as more trustworthy on healthcare. The terrible effect the virus is having on the stock markets also reduces his chances of re-election. He can no longer point to a healthy economy as his main point of pride.

No. Many Americans do not like being told what to do by their government. Any US president would have a hard time containing a pandemic. There is no NHS like in the UK. Additionally, Trump can point to his early decision to limit travel from China as proof that he has been proactive. He is a politician who understands the psyche of the US and might yet surprise his doubters.

You Decide

  1. What have you started to do to help fight the spread of coronavirus?
  2. Do you think it is ever right to think or talk about a virus being “foreign”?

Activities

  1. Research the statistics about testing and infection rates, and write three headlines which could help stop people panicking about Covid-19.
  2. Imagine you are responsible for writing Donald Trump’s speeches. Without changing his preference for simple language, write the sort of speech (one side) that you think would have been smarter for him to have delivered on Wednesday night.

Some People Say...

“Every one of these doctors said: ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

Donald Trump, 45th US president

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Over 1,000 people have caught the virus in USA, with at least 38 dead. Trump’s travel ban includes all of the European countries inside the Schengen zone (made up of the 26 European states that have abolished passport control at their shared borders), which have no border with Italy, the country with the biggest outbreak after China.
What do we not know?
We have no idea how widespread the coronavirus is in the USA. So long as testing is not carried out on a large scale, it is impossible to estimate numbers of those infected. We do not know whether in a country as large and decentralised as the US, containment measures can even be enforced by a government. We do not know if citizens will take it into their own hands to self-isolate and cancel events.

Word Watch

Pandemic
When a new disease, for which people do not have immunity, spreads around the world beyond expectations.
Cutting a swathe
Causing great destruction or change.
Centralised healthcare system
Like the NHS in the UK, a system that allows for a quick and responsible distribution of tests or, once one becomes available, vaccines
Populist
Appealing to the ordinary people who feel that their concerns are ignored by the most powerful and privileged groups.
Xenophobic
Showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries
Psyche
The soul, the mental or spiritual depths.

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