Trump shouldn’t have downplayed coronavirus, say experts

According to journalist Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage,” President Trump deliberately minimized the danger of the coronavirus last winter to avoid causing panic. But Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts say that was the wrong thing to do.

“If accurate, this reporting suggests that the decision to avoid a serious response was deliberate,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD), in a September 9, 2020 Boston Globe article. “We have lost 150,000 Americans and counting, and it increasingly looks as if others will have long-term health consequences of this infection. As a scientist, those are the facts. As a citizen, it is hard to know which is worse—that this was done out of ignorance, when there was so much clear information, or that, as this reporting suggests, it was done deliberately.”

In a September 11 article in The Hill, Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership and a former assistant secretary for health in the Obama administration, said that “confronting the hard facts as unpleasant as they may be” is a key part of public health messaging during a health crisis. The same article quoted a Twitter post from William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology and CCDD faculty member, that said the best way to minimize panic is to “honestly present the reality of the situation and reassure people that you are working to control it and minimize the fallout. Failing to prepare for a real threat is not responsible. Playing down a real risk that you know is real is not preventing panic. It’s negligence.”

Read article in the Boston Globe: ‘As an epidemiologist, I want to vomit’: Health experts slam Trump comments to Woodward on COVID-19 threat

Read article in The Hill: Trump draws fire for saying he downplayed virus to avoid ‘panic’