President Trump adopted a noticeably different tone when he addressed the nation on Monday, finally acknowledging that the coronavirus in the U.S. is not contained and is a serious problem, contrary to months of attempts to downplay the threat. It’s an admission that was long overdue, but still welcome.
The president was frank on other fronts, too. When reporters asked if the country was headed for a recession, the economy’s biggest cheerleader replied, “We may be.”
He also said, “I really think the media has been very fair,” leading many reporters to Google the current temperature in hell.
Trump continued this conciliatory tone as he addressed the nation on Tuesday, saying that his “best decision” was to surround himself with the medical team that shared the stage with him. He spoke about working with Democrats and Republicans alike. He emphasized the need to keep the American people safe. He announced new virus testing authority for states and other measures, including possible industry bailouts and sending money directly to American citizens.
But his newfound attitude adjustment only went so far. He continued, as the opportunity arose, to distractedly criticize Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. And he continued to praise his own response to the coronavirus threat, granting himself a “10” rating despite months of treating it like some kind of Democratic hoax intended to hurt him personally. His claim, “I’ve felt it was a pandemic before it was called a pandemic,” is absurd.
And his insistence on calling the coronavirus “the Chinese virus” is not helpful in any way. If nothing else, it’s divisive, drawing criticism that he’s once again trying to avoid responsibility for his own fumbles and playing to his most ignorant, xenophobic supporters. It also feeds into the conspiracy theory that China purposely created a worldwide pandemic — a theory that would need much more evidence before a rational person could consider it credible.
“Coronavirus” is quite good enough. We can all agree on what it means.
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper’s response to coronavirus has been encouraging and comforting. His executive order on Saturday to close schools and prohibit mass gatherings was executed calmly — and it was timely, with much of the state already anticipating such measures. His efforts this week to ease restrictions on unemployment benefits anticipate, rather than follow, the crisis bearing down on us.
Winston-Salem and Forsyth County authorities have also been responsive; Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough’s attempt to delay evictions in the middle of the crisis is proper and compassionate.
Many local business leaders have also stepped up, making painful financial sacrifices to help keep residents safe. We’ll have more to say about the local business community on Sunday.
There’s still much to be considered and addressed, including needs we’ve not yet even recognized. There are vulnerable populations in places as disparate as nursing homes and prisons, as well as immigrants in border facilities who have every right to feel as safe as the rest of us. There are low-wage workers who are exposed to the threat yet lack responsible leadership willing to protect their health ahead of profits.
Our attention to the coronavirus, its health and economic impact, has superseded other important issues such as the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan, climate change and the November election. They’re still important; we can’t ignore them.
Nor can we forget the need for “self-care” — to ensure that we’re resilient and durable.
We’re juggling a lot in a world that’s not short on challenges. Let’s help each other carry the load.