Coronavirus Has Been Politicized to Dangerous Effect

Republicans are half as likely to take the outbreak seriously.

The Atlantic‘s Robinson Meyer and Alex Madrigal offerThe Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing.”

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus?

This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.

But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found.

“The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.”

Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.

[…]

The Atlantic‘s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting. Several states—including New Jersey, Texas, and Louisiana—have not shared the number of coronavirus tests they have conducted overall, meaning their number of positive results lacks crucial context.

The net effect of these choices is that the country’s true capacity for testing has not been made clear to its residents. This level of obfuscation is unexpected in the United States, which has long been a global leader in public-health transparency.

The figures we gathered suggest that the American response to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has been shockingly sluggish, especially compared with that of other developed countries. The CDC confirmed eight days ago that the virus was in community transmission in the United States—that it was infecting Americans who had neither traveled abroad nor were in contact with others who had. In South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of its first case of community transmission, and it quickly became able to test 10,000 people a day. The United Kingdom, which has only 115 positive cases, has so far tested 18,083 people for the virus.

Normally, the job of gathering these types of data in the U.S. would be left to epidemiologists at the CDC. The agency regularly collects and publishes positive and negative test results for several pathogens, including multiple types of the seasonal flu. But earlier this week, the agency announced that it would stop publishing negative results for the coronavirus, an extraordinary step that essentially keeps Americans from knowing how many people have been tested overall.

“With more and more testing done at states, these numbers would not be representative of the testing being done nationally,” Nancy Messonnier, the chief CDC official for respiratory diseases, said at the time. “States are reporting results quickly, and in the event of a discrepancy between CDC and state case counts, the state case counts should always be considered more up to date.”

Then, last night, the CDC resumed reporting the number of tests that the agency itself has completed, but did not include testing by state public-health departments or other laboratories. Asked to respond to our own tally and reporting, the CDC directed us to Messonnier’s statement from Tuesday.

Our reporting found that disorder has followed the CDC’s decision not to publish state data. Messonnier’s statement itself implies that, as highly populous states like California increase their own testing, the number of people the CDC reports as having been tested and the actual number of people tested will become ever more divergent. The federal tally of positive cases is now also badly out of date: While the CDC is reporting 99 positive cases of the coronavirus in the United States, our data, and separate data from Johns Hopkins University, show that the true number is well above 200, including those on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The White House declined to comment.

The haphazard debut of the tests—and the ensuing absence of widespread data about the epidemic—has hamstrung doctors, politicians, and public-health officials as they try to act prudently during the most important week for the epidemic in the United States so far.

There’s a whole lot more at the link but you get the idea.

The President has, as has been noted often here is recent weeks, treated this as a public relations crisis rather than a public health crisis. And thereby doing both poorly.

In Washington State, where OTB roving correspondent Richard Gardner lives and where the virus has killed at least 11 people, we had this bizarre scene:

President Donald Trump on Friday called Washington Gov. Jay Inslee “a snake” for criticizing his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking in Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump went off on Inslee for saying that he wanted Trump to stick to the science when discussing the outbreak. Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay the gravity of the outbreak and floated his own hunches on matters of science.

“I told Mike not to be complimentary of that governor because that governor is a snake,” Trump said, referring to Vice President Mike Pence. “So Mike may be happy with him but I’m not, OK?”

Pence is Trump’s appointed head of the administration’s coronavirus efforts and has been reaching out to state and local officials to coordinate containment plans.

Inslee tweeted last month that he had been contacted by Pence but said he wanted the Trump administration to stick to the facts about the outbreak.

“I just received a call from @VP Mike Pence, thanking Washington state for our efforts to combat the coronavirus,” Inslee tweeted. “I told him our work would be more successful if the Trump administration stuck to the science and told the truth.”

Washington state was the location of the first U.S. death from coronavirus, and the number of deaths has since grown in the state.
Trump has repeatedly complained that he isn’t getting enough credit for attempting to prevent the outbreak.

“If we came up with a cure today, and tomorrow everything is gone, and you went up to this governor — who is, you know, not a good governor, by the way — if you went up to this governor, and you said to him, ‘How did Trump do?’ He would say, ‘He did a terrible job.’ It makes no difference,” Trump said Friday.

It’s literally impossible to imagine any President in my lifetime acting this way during a public health crisis. And, aside from breaking confidence with the states that depend on federal coordination and subverting the world-class CDC’s ability to do its job, this is sowing confusing with the American public.

Indeed, Reuters reports, Americans are divided on party lines over risk from coronavirus.

Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the United States, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted this week.

And more Democrats than Republicans say they are taking steps to be prepared, including washing their hands more often or limiting their travel plans.

Poll respondents who described themselves as Republicans and did not see the coronavirus as a threat said it still felt remote because cases had not been detected close to home and their friends and neighbors did not seem to be worried, either.

“I haven’t changed a single thing,” Cindi Hogue, who lives outside Little Rock, Arkansas, told Reuters. “It’s not a reality to me yet. It hasn’t become a threat enough yet in my world.”

Many of the U.S. cases that have been reported so far have been in Washington state and California, more than 1,000 miles away from Arkansas.

Politics was not a factor in her view of the seriousness of the virus, Hogue said. Other Republican respondents interviewed echoed that sentiment.

Now, obviously, part of this is geography. The disease has hit hardest so far on the West Coast, where we’re closing universities to contain the outbreak. It would be natural for there to be more concern in California and Washington than Arkansas. But there’s more to it than that.

Americans, who often consume news based on their political preferences, have received two different views of the virus’s potential impact.

Amid tumbling stock markets, President Donald Trump has sought to portray himself as on top of the health crisis, but he has been criticized for being overly optimistic about its potential impact and for sometimes incorrect statements on the science of the virus.

Trump has accused the media and his political adversaries of trying to derail his re-election campaign by amping up alarm over the dangers posed by the virus. He has largely sought to cast it as a comparatively minor threat, comparing its risk to the less deadly seasonal flu.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners last week that, “The coronavirus is the common cold” and was merely being “weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.”

Trump told Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Wednesday that he thought World Health Organization estimates of the virus’ death rate were a “false number,” that he had a hunch the rate was much lower, “a fraction of 1 percent.” The WHO said this week that the coronavirus killed about 3.4% of the people who contracted it worldwide.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump on Thursday of spreading misinformation about coronavirus’ death rate, saying the “reality is in the public domain.”

The Trump-Fox effort to downplay the risk is literally going to get people killed.

About half of Democrats said they are washing their hands more often now because of the virus, compared to about four in 10 Republicans, according to the poll. About 8% of Democrats said they had changed their travel plans, compared to about 3% of Republicans.

More than half of Republicans, about 54%, said they had not altered their daily routines because of the virus, compared to about 40% of Democrats.

So, not only are Republicans not taking common-sense precautions at the same rate as Democrats, they’re perversely at a higher risk because more of them are old.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Health
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    With respect to the coronavirus, Trump claimed the other day that “All these doctors say, ‘How do you know so much about this?'”

    I’m willing to guarantee that no medical doctor anywhere said this, ever.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: Maybe it was one of those dentists from the 1970s who opposed sugarless gum?

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  3. Lounsbury says:

    Well two aphorisms come to mind.
    (1) You reap what you sow,
    (2) Never interfere with the enemy when they are in the process of committing an error.

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  4. Argon says:

    And so many of us felt smug or shock about how the Chinese government mishandled the initial indications of the outbreak… Because of course, what else do you expect from a totalitarian government?

    And then, the US once again stood up and said to the world, “You call that mishandling? Hold my beer”. Fluck me, it’s so depressing sometimes…

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  5. Kit says:

    So, not only are Republicans not taking common-sense precautions at the same rate as Democrats, they’re perversely at a higher risk because more of them are old.

    Not perverse but rather poetic justice. If Trump loses the next election by a whisker and the numbers show it to be due to his supporters having died off by their own shared stupidity, then the political lesson will echo through American history, quickly becoming as much a cliche as Nazi references.

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  6. Jen says:

    It is astonishing how self-involved he is. The way his administration is handling this is flat-out dangerous.

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  7. Mikey says:

    Poll respondents who described themselves as Republicans and did not see the coronavirus as a threat said it still felt remote because cases had not been detected close to home and their friends and neighbors did not seem to be worried, either.

    “I haven’t changed a single thing,” Cindi Hogue, who lives outside Little Rock, Arkansas, told Reuters. “It’s not a reality to me yet. It hasn’t become a threat enough yet in my world.”

    And there you have the guiding principle of American conservatism: if it doesn’t affect me personally, it doesn’t matter.

    And because of it, there’s the potential for thousands more people to die than should have.

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  8. Polimom says:

    About half of Democrats said they are washing their hands more often now because of the virus, compared to about four in 10 Republicans, according to the poll. […]

    More than half of Republicans, about 54%, said they had not altered their daily routines because of the virus, compared to about 40% of Democrats.

    So… halfish of Democrats are washing their hands more often, while 40% of Republicans are doing the same. And this helps you conclude somehow that Republicans aren’t taking common sense precautions? Has it occurred to you that the “more often now” means… um… more often now?

    The Republicans I know are actually laughing at this statistic. To them, it’s shocking that the Democrats weren’t already washing their hands frequently – also a patently absurd conclusion. (My fb feed is absolutely filled with memes about this. Very annoying, I wish they’d stop.)

    Myself, I’m a “pox on both parties” person. Yet I haven’t altered my daily routine either. Not useful to share this with anybody, I realize, because it doesn’t feed the partisan divisiveness. Nonetheless, what I see is that BOTH sides are politicizing this in dangerous ways. Yes, Trump’s cavalier egocentricity means we don’t have a good picture of the numbers. And also yes, the “OMG THOUSANDS ARE GONNA DIE” is terrifying people into idiocy.

    “What?? Ethel stood in line near someone who’s daughter was on a cruise? Why is she out in public?? Ethel should be in quarantine!!!”

    Sigh…

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  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    Perhaps we should consider this a two-fer, Trump voters are taking fewer precautions, making them more prone to infection and will likely die at higher rates. The viability of Soc Security and Medicare will be ever so slightly enhanced due to early deaths of seniors.

    I’m going to go back to watch Addams Family reruns.

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  10. James Joyner says:

    @Polimom:

    So… halfish of Democrats are washing their hands more often, while 40% of Republicans are doing the same. And this helps you conclude somehow that Republicans aren’t taking common sense precautions? Has it occurred to you that the “more often now” means… um… more often now?

    So far as I’m aware, there is no evidence that there is a partisan difference in baseline hygiene. I, like most of us, routinely wash my hands after using the bathroom, while cooking, after sneezing, etc. But do I soap up every time like I “just got done slicing jalapeños for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out”? No. Am I being more careful about that now? Yes.

    To the extent that people aren’t because President Trump and the conservative media figures are downplaying the risks, it’s going to get people killed.

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  11. James Joyner says:

    @Kit:

    Not perverse but rather poetic justice.

    That presumes people are entirely to blame for their cultural surroundings. Or, for that matter, that infected Republicans never come into contact with people you care about.

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  12. grumpy realist says:

    Stupidity should hurt. We may see a prime example of this–anyone who thinks that Trump’s comments on the coronavirus are in fact worth listening to will manage to catch it and probably pass it on to all of their family. Those who die off will be the elder, Fox News-watching Trumpsters who probably already have diabetes or other health problems.

    Sorry, but with this level of stupidity I have no sympathy. At some point Darwin really does kick in, even if Trump and his supporters want to blame everything that goes wrong in their lives on the Democratic Party.

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  13. Polimom says:

    @James Joyner:

    So far as I’m aware, there is no evidence that there is a partisan difference in baseline hygiene

    Right. I’m not aware of a partisan difference in the baseline either. But without that baseline, determining a partisan difference of whether one group of party faithful washes MORE than the other is a bit challenging, is it not? Are they washing more because their prior hand-hygiene was inadequate? Dunno. (::shudder::) Are they washing more because they think they’ve been exposed somewhere? Dunno. (But unlikely in most of the country.) Are they washing more because they’re terrified? Dunno. (I bet this one can be quantified by party…)

    For the record: I’m finding myself pushing back pretty much across the board at this point, at anything that is partisan-based, as proof of something about “the others”. People twist data when it serves their purpose, and anything that purports to depict groups of “others” negatively smacks of spin to me. Every time.

    Also — All this wishful thinking about fellow citizens dying off in this thread? Appalling. Shame on you who are saying it.

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @Polimom:

    I’m finding myself pushing back pretty much across the board at this point, at anything that is partisan-based, as proof of something about “the others”. People twist data when it serves their purpose, and anything that purports to depict groups of “others” negatively smacks of spin to me.

    I’m not so much drawing a conclusion about “the others” as about the impact of a narcissistic President and an information bubble that he’s helped create. He’s putting out a dangerous narrative and sycophants in the media are spreading it to his followers, who he has helped condition to believe everything not coming from him or his preferred outlets is “fake news.” It’s literally going to get people killed.

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  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Polimom: Are we being “wishful thinkers” or simply pointing out where determined stupidity leads to?

    At some point you can’t rescue people from their consequences of their own idiocy. If you want to run out into rush hour traffic, go ahead. But don’t blame other people when you get hit.

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  16. Polimom says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not so much drawing a conclusion about “the others” as about the impact of a narcissistic President and an information bubble that he’s helped create.

    Sure you are. That’s exactly what you’ve done here:

    So, not only are Republicans not taking common-sense precautions at the same rate as Democrats, they’re perversely at a higher risk because more of them are old.

    But then, Reuters’ reporting on this also puts my radar on high alert. For instance:

    Many of the U.S. cases that have been reported so far have been in Washington state and California, more than 1,000 miles away from Arkansas.

    Politics was not a factor in her view of the seriousness of the virus, Hogue said. Other Republican respondents interviewed echoed that sentiment.
    But the political divide is nonetheless significant: About four of every 10 Democrats said they thought the new coronavirus poses an imminent threat, compared to about two of every 10 Republicans.

    The Narcissistic Cheetoh and his bloviating Limbaugh mouthpiece and his Hannity-sponsored campaign-time are certainly sending out a lot of b.s. I agree totally. But I don’t see how your (or Reuters’) conclusion follows the data. How many of their Democratic sample were from somewhere other than the coastal “blue” areas? Dunno. Likewise, did they have a representative Republican sample from those areas where the virus is making an impact? Or even just in those same coastal “blue” areas? How much of what they’ve concluded is based on results that are geographically tilted?

    I personally don’t know any Republicans who are saying, “Well, Trump says it isn’t a problem, so it isn’t.” Contrary to popular opinion, (most) Trump voters are not a monolithic bunch of snaggle-toothers. They’re aware that there’s a virus. They’re aware that it’s transmittable. They’re aware that hand-washing is a good thing, broadly and contextually. Yes, this paragraph is 100% anecdotal. But one would expect to hear at least one person say something, no?

    No doubt there are some who are being idiotic. But this whole “Republicans this” or “Democrats that” is leading us down a very dark path, James. One that is far more dangerous to our country than any single Cheetoh, however obnoxiously orange he is.

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  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Polimom:
    There are about 330 million Americans. If just ten percent – 33 million (equivalent to a moderately bad flu year) contract the virus, and the death rate stays at 2%, that’s 660,000 dead. That would be about ten times the death toll from the Vietnam War, or the entire population of Nashville.

    Of course we don’t know what the death rate is, it may be 2%, it may be 3.6%, we don’t know because the Trump administration botched testing because they were obsessed over the stock market. And we have no reason to expect honesty from this administration, let alone competence.

    But let’s not awfulize and stick with 2%. If 660,000 die, let’s be conservative and say that ten times that number have symptoms requiring hospitalization. We do not have hospital beds for 6.6 million people. We have no vaccine. We have no specific anti-virals. That many people in the hospital means many more times that number unable or unwilling to work. And it means health care workers will be hard hit so that our ability to cope is compromised.

    So I’m not panicking. I don’t know anyone who is panicking. But I have a 63 year-old wife with asthma. So I’m not glib, either.

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  18. Barry says:

    “I don’t know what went wrong this time.”

    Trump. We saw in in FEMA – under President Clinton it worked great, under Bush the Lesser it failed miserably, under President Obama it rebounded.

    BTW, this is a disturbing leading indicator of the US government’s weakness. We’re seeing changes in Presidents associated with strong changes in what should be stable government administration (the low-level, non-sexy stuff).

    For example, Bush the Lesser inherited what might have been an all-star cabinet, courtesy of his father (Bush the Greater). But when working for BtL, rather than BtG, that same cabinet acted like Boy Scouts when the scoutmaster is away and the liquor cabinet is left unlocked.

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  19. Polimom says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    So I’m not panicking. I don’t know anyone who is panicking. But I have a 63 year-old wife with asthma. So I’m not glib, either.

    And it’s good that you’re not. Like all high emotions, they lead to poor decision-making. But there seem to be plenty of people who are panicking. Witness the empty shelves all over the country. Or the ongoing weirdness with facemasks. And my little anecdote about Ethel was only lightly edited to protect real people; I have absolutely heard conversations just like that.

    So the best to be said, then, would be: Some people are panicking and some are not. Some might be identifiable by party and some might not. And some might have risk factors that mean they should take more precautions than others. And some might not.

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  20. KM says:

    My elderly aunt is a huge Trump fan. She also recently had a lung transplant and is TERRIFIED of the virus. She is very, very aware this could be the death of her and is furious about how Trump’s handling this. She called me and raged about how could he call it a hoax, this is Serious Damnit!!!! I asked her why she thought a man who calls everything fake news would suddenly change. He’s an incompetent, mendicious, science-denying attention-whore that only cares for himself…. and that’s who she elected to be in charge of a crisis. Well, it’s crisis time!

    This is going to hurt the people who support him – this ignorance and disdain that’s nothing new but is suddenly going to kill them instead of the Others. I’m worried for her but at the same time, this is what happens when you support a moron. Play with fire and you get burned. You don’t get to be mad fire is hot after you set the house ablaze.

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  21. Teve says:

    Just BTW, if it’s mostly killing the elderly, it’s not “Darwinism”. For it to be any kind of selection, it would have to kill people before reproduction.

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  22. Kathy says:

    I wonder what happens if we begin to see stories like “Joe was infected with COVID-19 at a Trump rally.”

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Polimom:

    But there seem to be plenty of people who are panicking. Witness the empty shelves all over the country.

    I went to Wally world yesterday specifically to buy toilet paper because I had heard there is a run on TP. Good thing I did. We live on a septic system and anything other than septicsafe is not usable for us.

    Yes, there is panic buying, but some of the “panic buying” is a very reasonable response to the “panic buying”. It is a self reinforcing cycle but if one has to have certain things, ignoring the short term consequences of running out is not the answer to the problem. Add to this the fact that there are actual shortages of some items due to virus induced shipping constraints and it is a little unfair to belittle people for their “panic buying”.

    Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, I live in a very very red corner of a very very red Misery, so trumpsters aren’t universally ignoring the virus.

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  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: I too have been wondering how it’s going to effect campaigning.

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  25. Scott F. says:

    @Polimom:

    So the best to be said, then, would be: Some people are panicking and some are not. Some might be identifiable by party and some might not. And some might have risk factors that mean they should take more precautions than others. And some might not.

    Actually, “some” is not very helpful here and hides the problem with your impulse to bothsider this.

    Sensationalism in journalism has been around since at least Pulitzer and Hearst, so panic and over-reaction in the face of imperfect or incomplete information is nothing new.

    But, a President who deliberately and pervasively FALSIFIES to hype his accomplishments and cover-up his failures in matters both trivial and critical is new. And a wide spectrum of media that knowingly reiterates the president’s lies and consistently denies facts based on evidence is new. And a political base that has completely isolated itself to only those news sources that tell them what they want to hear and rejects all else as “false news” is new. And a party that should be calling out their president when he fails in the duties of his office, but instead embraces him even tighter is new. And all of this “newness” is on the Republicans. Full. Stop.

    James is right to call it out as dangerous. Others here are right to be angry about it.

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  26. Teve says:

    @Kathy: FAKE NEWS! LOOK JOE IS FINE!

    (trump, standing on one side of Joe with Pence standing on the other side, lifts Joe’s arm up and waves. Joe is also wearing sunglasses for some reason.)

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  27. MarkedMan says:

    Someone upstream or perhaps on another thread said the reason the US is responding so badly this time is because of Trump, but this isn’t the entire truth. For decades now, the Republican Party has increasingly moved away from competence as the motivating factor amongst their voters and instead relied exclusively on scapegoating and resentment. The result is as inevitable as it is tragic. As the old Republican leaders who valued competence and results have died off or retired, they have been replaced by people who actively avoid being perceived as responsible for literally anything. They don’t do things, but only prevent things from being done. Today at the national level there are virtually no competent responsible Republicans willing to take on the difficult task of governing. They strive to get the position but they have no interest in the job.

    The modern Republican Party is the culture in which the Trump virus bred. Trump isn’t anomalous, he is exactly what we should have expected. I’ve been saying for years that voting Republican actively endangers us. I’ve said it here. This latest fiasco is the simply the most glaring proof go that.

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  28. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: i’ve seen speculation that Trump is setting up Pence to be the scapegoat, and then the summer he’ll pick Nikki Haley for veep.

    My voice rec software always writes pants instead of Pence. Since Mike Pence is the walking embodiment of a pair of dockers khakis with a polo shirt and some hush puppies, I might just stop correcting it.

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Polimom:

    Myself, I’m a “pox on both parties” person.

    It’s not a pox, but would you settle for a respiratory illness with severe complications in a significant percentage of cases?

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Never interfere with the enemy when they are in the process of committing an error.

    If it’s an error that’s going to kill a lot of people, I’m ok with interfering. YMMV.

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  31. Sleeping Dog says:

    Over at TAC, Dreher had this up the other day. And looking through the headlines of his recent posts, he’s been on quite a Tiny-Coronavirus rant.

    Concern about the WH handling of the crisis isn’t just a Left/Dem hobby horse.

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  32. Gustopher says:

    @Teve:

    i’ve seen speculation that Trump is setting up Pence to be the scapegoat, and then the summer he’ll pick Nikki Haley for veep.

    Pence is doing less worse than Trump.

    Let’s pretend the speculation was accurate — would Trump be getting out in front of the cameras and making wildly inaccurate claims if he hoped to blame someone else?

    I don’t think Trump is that devious. He doesn’t have the self-control. It’s far more likely that he doesn’t think it’s a big problem — which is terrifying. If he was going to blame someone else it would be about how “people are saying that a lot of this comes from illegal immigrants…”

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  33. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    Tiny is so germ phobic that he wouldn’t let Joe w/in a country mile of him.

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  34. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: Trump literally said the other day that he didn’t know people died from the flu, so I need to keep in mind that stupidity is almost always going to be the best explanation.

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  35. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Gustopher:

    What Tiny is trying to do is create his own reality around this with the belief that the Trumpaloons will simply adopt the same view. Tiny is a self-promoter, promoting.

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  36. Gustopher says:

    On the subject of likely unwarranted panic caused by a lack of trusted information, I have begun racially and economically profiling people to decide how much I should fear them.

    Middle aged white guy with nice shoes who looks like he travels for business? Get the f away from me.

    Chinese guy who’s making my lunch? He’s cool.

    I just hope the Chinese guy is staying away from the white guy with the nice shoes. (It’s Seattle, we don’t dress well, so when someone has nice shoes, it stands out as a clear marker of someone who has to impress other people somewhere else…)

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  37. @Polimom:

    But without that baseline, determining a partisan difference of whether one group of party faithful washes MORE than the other is a bit challenging, is it not?

    I think the data provided are sufficient to suggest that one group is reacting differently than the other, and since the reaction is to the Covid-19 issue, it is not unreasonable, at all, to infer that there is a partisan reason for the different behavior.

    Indeed, your point about “more” is the key. It is a recent behavioral change.

    Now, it may be coincidental that at this moment of public health crisis wherein the President and his media allies are seeking to downplay the virus that the behavior change we are seeing is different in the two groups, and to really prove it would take more serious study, I think that the basic inference is sound that this is a manifestation of partisan reaction to the virus and that the president it helping create it.

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  38. PJ says:

    Trump will trail badly in the general election against Biden and then he will postpone the election due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I’ve been over at TAC reading Dreher the past few days, and Larison, both of whom fall on the anti-Trump side, as well as some clown that spent a whole column talking about how Trump’s response is so much better than Obama’s.

    The comment sections were interesting. In Dreher’s comment section he acknowledged that the Democrats would force him to vote for Trump anyway (because of the gays doncha know) and in the clown’s comment section he actually castigated someone who pointed out the dangerous things Trump was saying by telling them that if they hadn’t learned to separate Trump’s actions from what he merely said they were hopelessly naive. And just to give further insight into the mind of a Trumper, I can’t quote him exactly because he deleted the comment and all the replies (which, shall we say, were not flattering) from the thread.

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  40. Polimom says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think the data provided are sufficient to suggest that one group is reacting differently than the other, and since the reaction is to the Covid-19 issue, it is not unreasonable, at all, to infer that there is a partisan reason for the different behavior.

    Perhaps. Although every Trumpster I know would almost certainly snarl something like, “Of course I’m not” if asked by a pollster about washing their hands more — even if they were getting soap suds all over the phone while the water was running in the sink. And (related): as was mentioned upthread by @OzarkHillbilly, even in the very heart of Trumpland, they’re stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

    With respect… in this partisan political climate, I’ll continue to take it with a huge grain of salt.

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  41. Mikey says:

    @Polimom: I disagree with you and agree with Steven and James but I still hope you’re right, because then fewer people will die. I don’t wish death on Republicans, I just want them to lose all the elections.

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  42. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    It ultimately depends on 1) how bad the disease gets, and 2) when the outbreak burns out.

    The first seems to be bad, but not too bad for most cases. The second depends largely on what actions are taken to contain the outbreak. So chances are it will affect the campaigns.

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  43. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Affect the campaigns? Trump cancelled an entire trip to the CDC because he heard one employee was being tested for the virus. I can’t imagine he will be out kissing babies anytime soon

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  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Polimom: Well, I postponed my vacation plans for the time being. On the other hand, I was planning a trip to Korea, so I don’t see it as overreacting. (I’m also 67 and have both COPD and asthma.)

    ETA: @Gustopher: “It’s Seattle, we don’t dress well…”
    I take it that you’ve never been to Nordstroms, eh?

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  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    We’re dreading our Chinese kid being subjected to ignorant prejudice.

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  46. An Interested Party says:

    But this whole “Republicans this” or “Democrats that” is leading us down a very dark path, James. One that is far more dangerous to our country than any single Cheetoh, however obnoxiously orange he is.

    As if the partisan divide is some new ominous thing…as if there aren’t a whole group of people who listen to and follow the dangerous “Cheetoh”…the ship has already sailed on that dark path, the question now is how best to stop the “Cheetoh” and minimize the damage he’s caused…

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  47. @Polimom: You are hurting my social scientists’ soul a bit by countering aggregate data from a legit survey with anecdotes 😉

    I stand by my assessment: maybe it is is a coincidence (or a bad poll), but the data as presented demonstrate a aggregate difference in behavior based on partisan self-ID.

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  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: I can’t segregate myself from the world but I’ll be avoiding crowded places. I have too many strikes against me.

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  49. @Polimom: @Steven L. Taylor: BTW, the anecdotes fit the poll data: self-identified Republicans are changing their behavior in the aggregate. The issue is a disjuncture in how much eavh group has changed.

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  50. Michael Reynolds says:

    I could easily not leave my house for a year. Instacart brings groceries and booze, Door Dash and Caviar bring meals, HERB brings, well, herb, CVS delivers meds, and what they don’t bring me, Amazon will. I have all the cable channels and the apps, I have internet, I can text and phone. I work at home. My banking is all on-line. And I don’t really hang out with people, anyway. Twice a year I’d need to see my doctor for med checks, but I imagine I could find someone to do that via video link.

    It’s kind of scary. It’s the future!

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  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m not far off from that myself.

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  52. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Who shops at Nordstrom’s? Businessy people. They don’t have good party clothes, and Slacker Chic covers everyone else.

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  53. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think you’re missing the fact that Republicans just can’t wash their hands any more than they already are. Twenty to forty times a day, on average. If they washed any more, they would be washing their skin off.

    @Polimom: Go look at FoxNews. There’s very little covid-19 coverage, as if it is just fine.

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  54. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You may want to take the occasional walk. Doable at 6am when no one is around though.

    The real problem is going to be the horribly sick delivery people.

    ——
    Hmm. If I get a PT-INR meter for my blood levels, I could also never leave the house.

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  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Okay, good point. And I haven’t been in Seattle in about 5 years, so I may not be very current on how life is there.

    And I’m old too. That’s another problem.

    ETA: “Hmm. If I get a PT-INR meter for my blood levels, I could also never leave the house.”

    Do you have Afib? I remember you mentioning something about your heart a while ago but can’t remember the details. In any event, you have my heartfelt wishes for your continuing health.

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  56. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    I got a weed delivery tonight. I sprayed down the jars with Lysol, ditto my drivers license, ditto the credit card. Then hand washing with surgical soap. I’m up in the air on a London trip I’m supposed to take in a couple weeks. My wife’s going to have to cancel book tour for a book for which she got paid so much that I pretty much have to serve her breakfast in bed forever, and address her as Madame.

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  57. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Just madame? Why not altesse royale?

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  58. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    …and address her as Madame

    .

    I thought that was just part of marriage.

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  59. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Michael Reynolds says:
    Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 15:41
    @Gustopher:
    We’re dreading our Chinese kid being subjected to ignorant prejudice.

    Take comfort. The person who downvoted this is probably the ignorant pederast who downvotes all my stuff.

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  60. Mister Bluster says:

    @Polimom: …every Trumpster I know would almost certainly snarl something like, “Of course I’m not” if asked by a pollster about washing their hands more — even if they were getting soap suds all over the phone while the water was running in the sink.

    I am confused. Are you saying that you trust every Trumpster you know to do the right thing because they are all liars?

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  61. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: To the best of my knowledge, my heart is fine.

    I had a massive pulmonary embolism about 8 years ago. Two copy’s of Factor V gene, and will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life (probably at least the next few weeks, as I’ve been joking for years). Anyway, I’m basically in bonus time now, so… I can’t complain.

    I do worry that my cats will starve to death if I die or am hospitalized from corona virus, as I don’t think anyone would/should risk their life for my cats… that would be sad.

    (I also have anxiety problems and gas pains in my chest that mimic the symptoms of a heart attack, sometimes with a pinched nerve that goes down my arm. So, when I do have heart problems… I’m doomed)

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  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I remembered that it was something. And I know what you mean about the being doomed thing. I remember having a conversation with my cardiologist while I was in Korea. He was noting that I should pay attention to being short of breath because it’s frequently a warning of heart attack. When I noted that I was asthmatic and wondered how to tell the difference between asthma shortness of breath and heart attack shortness of breath. He said that would certainly make it more complicated. We shared a laugh at that.

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