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Donald Trump took his campaign to reassure the American people that the coronavirus outbreak is no reason not to reelect him to a new level yesterday, offering a lot of fake news that should surely make us safe. In a live telephone interview with Sean Hannity, Trump explained he has a "hunch" the virus isn't actually very dangerous, because he talks to lots of experts. Not that he learns anything from 'em, but he definitely sits in the same room with them and doodles rocket ships blowing up Nancy Pelosi while they say things. Trump went on to call the disease the "corona flu" and to suggest that lots of people are perfectly safe going to work while they're infected, no big deal. It was a truly impressive demonstration of the Great Leader's ability to keep people calm in a crisis, as long as you don't mind a little bit of compulsive lying.

We'll get to the lies in a moment, but first, let's isolate them in a Truth Sandwich: The World Health Organization announced this week that the global death rate from confirmed cases of COVID-19 is about 3.4 percent, which is far deadlier than the seasonal flu that Trump likes to confuse the coronavirus with. The flu IS NOT the same as the coronavirus. There have been 11 US deaths as of yesterday, the latest one reported in California. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who suspect they may be sick should not go to work (although as we've noted, economic reality often dictates otherwise).

So with that in mind, let's see just how badly the nation's political leader fucked it all up (same video in both tweets; we've included the second because it briefly frames Reality v Trump once more):

Dude may not be trying to get people killed, but that shit could get people killed.


What's really sort of astonishing is that even Sean Hannity — who started out the coronavirus section of the interview by praising Trump's wisdom in banning flights from China — nonetheless noted the actual estimate from the WHO, which Trump then dismissed as fake, because he knows better than a bunch of globalists.

Hannity: We had a report today, the global death rate at 3.4 percent, and a report the Olympics could be delayed. Your reaction to that?

Trump: Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, and this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lotta people will have this and it's very mild. They'll get better very rapidly. They don't even see a doctor. They don't even call a doctor.

You never hear about those people! So you can't put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and — or virus. So you just can't do that.

See, if you go by all the people who are never even tested because they never saw a doctor, or because we refuse to allow them to be tested, then obviously the mortality rate is smaller. No, that is not how mortality rates are calculated, although it does, unintentionally, get at a key problem with figuring out how deadly the virus is: We don't know the basic infection numbers in the USA because even now, test kits are still in short supply, goddamn it.

Trump then spun out his fantasy about how the virus isn't all that bad, because lots of people may have it and just kind of shrug it off:

So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.

Then when you do have a death, like you've had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California, I believe you had one in New York, you know, all of a sudden, it seems like 3 or 4 percent, which is a very high number, as opposed to a fraction of 1 percent.

Again, the 3.4 percent death rate is WHO's estimate, not just something some journalist made up by seeing "a death." That would be 10 deaths in Washington, one in California, and none yet in New York, although 11 cases have been reported there so far — and again, that's with very limited testing.

Since he offered his own novel theory about how statistics work yesterday, Trump has defended exactly one part of his load of bullshit: He objects that anyone thought he recommended that people go to work if they're sick.

So yes, let's clarify: All he said was that he thinks lots and lots of people are going to work while infected with a virus he thinks is the flu, and that they're getting better all on their own, and that somehow these unconfirmed cases mean the death rate among confirmed cases should be lower.

See? That's merely downplaying the seriousness of the disease, not making a recommendation! Isn't that a lot better? (He also didn't say a word about the likelihood of transmitting the virus when sick people go to work, which maybe means it's OK, not that he's recommending it.)

Hey, about those test kits: There's still a shortage, and that's resulting in bad data. South Korea, which has the largest number of COVID-19 cases outside China, is also mounting the most aggressive testing regimen in the world. It's tested over 140,000 people already, which has allowed quicker imposition of quarantines, and quicker treatment, for infected people, without any internal travel restrictions. As a result, South Korea has one of the the lowest death rates among those who test positive — it truly is below one percent, without making up any imaginary workers who got all better without ever being tested. And without even blaming Barack Obama!

We should also note that even before he got to the other lies, Trump also lied about the number of Americans repatriated from China and that cruise ship quarantined in Japan in early February. Roughly 450 Americans from Wuhan and more than 300 Americans from the Diamond Princess were repatriated by the State Department. Of those returnees, the CDC reports a total of 49 have tested positive for COVID-19. Trump preferred to lie about all that, telling Hannity he had "brought in approximately 40, a little bit more than that," as if that was the total number of those repatriated. It isn't even the number who got sick. Besides, they're almost all better now! Weirdly, he suggested that once those infected people were released from treatment, that would somehow "reduce our numbers," as if the infection rate only referred to people who are sick at any one moment.

Hannity did his part to mitigate the outbreak — not the outbreak of actual disease, but the outbreak of facts about coronavirus — by suggesting that Barack Obama and Joe Biden had been reckless in their response to the 2009-10 H1N1 swine flu epidemic, an entirely different pathogen. "We lost around 17,000 Americans, the CDC estimates we lost 200 to 500,000 lives worldwide." Trump was happy to add that the Obama administration "didn't do anything about it" because they "never did close the borders, they never had the travel ban, and we did." Not that a travel ban would have stopped an extremely infectious flu virus, just as the travel restrictions haven't stopped community transmission of coronavirus now. But hey, dishonest comparisons are fun!

Here's the whole sordid mess, starting from the Dear Leader's bragging about how he stopped coronavirus with a travel ban, which is why everything's fine now:

youtu.be

In conclusion: The coronavirus is not the flu. As WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this week, there are important differences:

COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained.

We need to make sure our local health authorities get the federal help they need to keep us safe, and we need to make sure accurate information is part of that. Keep washing your hands and use a disinfecting wipe on your phone, then yell at your senators to pass the House's coronavirus funding bill.

And listen to the real experts, not the grinning idiot who thinks he can lie his way through a public health emergency.

[Reuters / Politico / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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