Here’s the live feed for the President’s scheduled 6:30 PM EST address this evening on the COVID 19 coronavirus.
I honesty don’t know what to expect from him tonight. Apparently the President is very angry with Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who is the career, professional infectious disease specialist leading the CDC’s response.
“It’s great to make emergency preparations, it’s not great to make predictions,” the official said.
— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) February 26, 2020
It doesn’t help that Dr. Messonnier is former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s sister, which has set Rush Limbaugh and other supporters and surrogates of the President off on a variety of related conspiracy theories about how COVID19 is somehow a deep state conspiracy against the President. Which I’m sure makes all of seriously ill and dead people in dozens of countries feel much better.
I’m sure someone has recommended that the President be put on a script loaded into the teleprompter, kept as calm as possible, told to just go out and do the “just the facts ma’am” address about what is going on, and then turn it over to the medical professionals from the CDC and the NIH. But as is always the case with the President, there is no way to know whether we’re going to get a very subdued President who makes his way through a statement he clearly doesn’t want to make and then quickly leaves without taking questions or whether we’re going to get an unleashed President who doesn’t stay on script, opens up for questions, and then answers them however he feels like doing so. The former would be okay, the latter would create a whole series of new problems given the President’s and his administration’s well documented history of lying, presenting factually inaccurate information, and promoting conspiracy theories.
There are, however, a number of good quality sources for accurate information. Anne Laurie has been bringing us all an early morning round up of a lot of those sources – most of whom are medical professionals and researchers working on these issues. Here is the link to the CDC’s recommended guidance. And here is the link to the CDC’s updates on the COVID 19 coronavirus. Here’s one from The Washington Post that Cheryl sent me, as well as an excellent article from Foreign Policy she passed on as well. You should also give this article that Cheryl highlighted in a tweet yesterday a read too.
This article contains many good suggestions. It's mainly written for professionals in risk communication. Tips for the rest of us are in small print throughout, and at the bottom, under "What's working for us."
h/t @SellaTheChemist https://t.co/AQZHHuF7PO
— Cheryl Rofer (@CherylRofer) February 25, 2020
A lot of the recommendations are the common sense ones that we all use for cold and flu seasons: wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face, eyes, nose, mouth unless you’ve washed or sanitized your hands, if you’re feeling ill stay home if possible and contact your physician for guidance, cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue or the inside of your elbow (vampire sneeze or cough), if you are experiencing respiratory difficulties, seek medical assistances as soon as you can. And, of course, get a flu shot or the nasal mist. It won’t help with COVID 19, but it will provide some protection against the seasonal flu and potentially remove that as a potential medical issue for you. And, of course, the normal emergency preparations that we’ve posted about in regard to natural disasters apply: have a week to two week’s worth of non-perishable food, make sure your prescription and over the counter medicines are filled, make sure your home first aid kit is properly stocked, get plenty of rest, check reliable news sources, the usual.
Unfortunately, in terms of the official US response, we are in something of uncharted waters with the COVID 19 virus. The President is a known conspiracy monger who lies frequently and who has been more than happy to politicize public health and other potential national security issues for his own advantage. We all remember his helpful and thoughtful contributions to the US government’s response to ebola in 2014. It also doesn’t help that the President has overseen the degradation of the US’s ability to respond to a public health emergency by firing the National Security Staff members on the National Security Council who coordinate public health emergency and pandemic response, as well as cutting the CDC response teams and efforts by 80%. The President has also reduced US national health spending by $15 billion and eliminating the $30 million complex crisis fund, which would ordinarily be tapped to respond to something like the COVID 19 outbreak. Just as personnel is policy, so too is budgeting. What the President is and is not willing to fund is as much a determinant to what the official policy of the US is as who is hired to oversee and implement it and how it is officially delineated. It won’t matter a bit if the President delineates a strategy tonight to respond to the COVID 19 outbreak because the personnel and budgeting that the President have put forward would be trying to ask of that strategy that which no strategy could provide: ways and means that do not exist.
The President has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t value intelligence. By this I’m referring to the product produced by the US intelligence community (IC), as well as other information coming from professional sources intended to enhance decision making. The purpose of intelligence is to provide timely, useful, and accurate information in a digestible format so that senior leaders and decision makers can make appropriate assessments of threats, challenges, and opportunities and the best decisions possible to deal with them. It is the role of senior advisors to provide the President what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear, based on the most timely and accurate information and analyses possible. And the President has also, repeatedly, indicated he doesn’t value this either. The firing of Vice Admiral Maguire as Acting DNI ten days ago is just the most recent example of this unfortunate reality.
If the President can be convinced to get out of the way and let the professionals at the CDC and the NIH and what is left of the US’s national public health officers corps do their jobs, let Congress quickly ramp up funding to allow these agencies to rapidly expand their personnel and operation, we might be okay. But if he cannot control his impulses, things are likely to be far rougher than they would need to be going forward. And even if he can contain himself, he can’t and won’t stop his surrogates and supporters spreading conspiracy theories that will make it much harder for the Federal, state, and local governments to respond.
We are off the looking glass and through the map.