On Monday, March 2, 2020, the day started with tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump accusing the Democrats of “fear mongering” about coronavirus. The day ended with Fox News insisting the threat of covid-19 was little more than media hype. In between, there was a whole bunch of fuckery.
One month ago today feels like a lifetime ago. Things have changed so quickly and they’ll continue to change—it’s a bit like waiting for an asteroid to hit, as U.S. government officials predict at least 100,000 deaths in the U.S. over the coming weeks and months. But April 2 looks very different than March 2, with most people now staying home and uncertainty about when we’ll get to return to “normal.” But there’s a real value in stopping for a moment and taking a look back at how we got here.
On the evening of March 2, there were 102 identified cases of covid-19 and six deaths in the United States. Today, there are 234,462 identified cases and 5,316 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins. On March 2, no city or state had a shelter-in-place order. Today, April 2, Americans in 45 of the 50 states are currently under some kind of lockdown.
It can be easy to lose track of time as the days bleed into one another, but it’s important to keep recent history alive, as our lives may depend on it. People are dying, and no part of the world is immune. The U.S. is in a particularly bad spot right now, thanks largely to a failure of leadership from people like Donald Trump and a complicit right-wing news media that insisted for months there was nothing to worry about.
Yesterday, the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, even said he had no idea until this week that people without symptoms of covid-19 could be carriers of the disease. But anyone who’s been paying attention has known about asymptomatic transmission for weeks. Was Kemp lying or stupid? Either way, it’s not a great sign for the future of the country.
America’s leaders and top media pundits are constantly changing their stories these days about covid-19. Trump has gone from saying that the new coronavirus was just like the flu, to slamming anyone who would make such a suggestion. Below we have a very brief history of exactly one month ago today. Think of it as a touchstone for reality. You’re not losing your mind. These people really said these things, as recently as a month ago. And this snapshot proves it.
What President Trump Was Saying
“I was criticised by the Democrats when I closed the Country down to China many weeks ahead of what almost everyone recommended,” Trump tweeted that morning. “Saved many lives. Dems were working the Impeachment Hoax. They didn’t have a clue! Now they are fear mongering. Be calm & vigilant!”
Later that morning, Trump met with Colombia’s President Iván Duque Márquez, and fielded some questions from the press that involved his response to the coronavirus crisis, insisting that it was “very safe” for him to continue to hold political rallies while covid-19 was circulating through the population.
By the afternoon, Trump was meeting with CEOs from pharmaceutical companies, and suggesting very tight timelines for when a “cure” might be available.
“We’re talking about three to four months,” Trump said at the roundtable of when a vaccine would be available.
“I’ve heard very quick numbers—a matter of months—and I’ve heard pretty much a year would be an outside number. So I think that’s not a bad—that’s not a bad range. But if you’re talking about three to four months, in a couple of cases, and a year in other cases,” Trump said.
And it wasn’t just Trump. His goons behind the scenes were making the same comparisons to the flu and insisting that the stock market dive was merely a “correction.”
An anonymous White House official was quoted by a journalist for CNBC as saying, “Tell them > 30 k fatalities per year domestically b/c of flu. Tell them we are ending war in Afghan. Tell them we were due for market correction.”
That night, Trump held a rally in North Carolina, insisting that “Washington Democrats are trying to politicize the coronavirus, denigrating the noble work of our public health professionals.”
What Fox News Was Saying
Fox News had quite a day of bullshit on March 2. Jesse Watters said on The Five that he wanted China to apologise for the coronavirus, something that isn’t terribly surprising considering his history of anti-Asian racism.
“I’d like to just ask the Chinese for a formal apology,” Watters said. “This coronavirus originated in China, and I have not heard one word from the Chinese. A simple ‘I’m sorry’ would do. It would go a long way. I expect a formal apology tomorrow.”
Watters went on to say that the outbreak started in China because people there were eating raw bats.
“I’ll tell you why it started in China. Because they have these markets where they are eating raw bats and snakes. They are a very hungry people. The Chinese communist government cannot feed the people, and they are desperate. This food is uncooked. It’s unsafe, and that is why scientists believe that’s where it originated,” Watters said.
Watters was the guy who previously went to New York’s Chinatown for cheap racist jokes. Watters eventually apologised for the racist stereotypes he portrayed during that segment, but his more recent racism has been defended as half-jokes.
Laura Ingraham had Dr. Drew Pinsky on her show on March 2, who insisted that everyone was concerned over nothing. Dr. Drew is an addiction specialist with no background in epidemiology.
“Essentially the entire problem we’re having is due to panic, not the virus. I was saying this six weeks ago. We have six deaths from the coronavirus, 18,000 deaths from the flu,” Pinsky told Ingraham, saying that the “fatality rate is going to drop.”
“It’s panic. It’s panic. That is panic. That is people engaged in panic behaviour,” Pinsky said emphatically “And that is what concerns me. It is a press-induced panic, that will have real consequences. It will not be the virus.”
Sean Hannity said that the H1N1 epidemic was worse than covid-19, and pinned the blame on President Barack Obama for “20,000 of our fellow Americans hospitalised, more than 1,000 dead.”
“Do you remember anyone at that time anybody in the media stirring up the type of hysteria as they’re doing now?” Hannity asked on his show. “Do you remember the end of days predictions? Did the stock market tank because of all the reckless lies and fear-mongering?”
What the Task Force Was Saying
Mike Pence and his White House Coronavirus Task Force held a press briefing on March 2, and the Vice President insisted that everything was under control.
“The risk of the coronavirus to the American people remains low,” Pence said, suggesting that vaccines and therapeutics for covid-19 would be just over the horizon.
“It is remarkable to think that there may well be a vaccine going to clinical trials within the next six weeks,” Pence said. “The nature of trials, as the experts have explained to us, is that the vaccine might yet not be available until late this year or early next, but the therapeutics, giving relief to people who contracted the coronavirus could literally be available by this summer or early fall.”
The FDA commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, spoke at the press conference to announce that by the end of that week, which was March 6, a million tests would be performed. That milestone wasn’t reached until March 31, according to the best data being compiled right now.
“With this new policy, we have heard from multiple companies and multiple academic centres, and we expect to have a substantial increase in the number of tests this week, next week, and throughout the month,” Dr. Hahn said. “There will be… the estimates we’re getting from industry right now, by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed.”
What Wall Street Was Saying
The Dow had plummeted in the previous week, leading some people to be nervous, but the stock market recovered on this particular Monday, with the Dow soaring 1,290 points, the most in a single day ever. That 5 per cent jump led some people to get cocky and people on Wall Street to speculate that this whole coronavirus thing was being overhyped.
“I think stocks soared today because Wall Street realised that the coronavirus might be the equivalent of a severe flu season,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said.
The comparison to the flu was everywhere, echoing everything the president and his regime were insisting throughout Monday.
“I’m much more concerned about the regular flu,” said Jeff Hirsch, Probabilities Fund Management on CNBC. “Fear does seem to be spreading faster than the virus.”
CNBC was also telling people that the stock market wasn’t necessarily reacting to coronavirus, but it was instead worried about a potential Bernie Sanders presidency.
“Did the market also sort of get rattled by this Bernie Sanders boom? Now we have this big Biden win—Klobuchar out, Buttigieg out—I wonder, is there a Biden bounce as part of this?” one commentator on CNBC speculated.
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Adena Friedman, the president and CEO of Nasdaq, wrote that “Markets have historically been quick to recover from pandemic threats” stressing that capitalism would solve everything.
From the WSJ:
Investors will have to evaluate health-related risks in the weeks and months ahead, and they may well see more volatility. But the efficiency of U.S. markets and the diligence of government and industry researchers working to develop a vaccine should give Americans hope. The coronavirus is the kind of problem that defies simple solutions, but markets are responding as they should—infusing capital for the most promising solutions. Amid market volatility, cool-headed capitalism finds a cure.
The Dow is down 18.36 per cent since a month ago. And capitalism sure as hell isn’t saving us. Today we learned that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. That’s on top of 3.3 million who filed for unemployment the week before that. That means almost 10 million people have lost their jobs in the past two weeks.
Financial types are no longer talking about a simple recession. They’re using the D-word: Depression.
What Twitter Ghouls Were Saying
Bill Mitchell, a longtime supporter of President Trump, tweeted on March 2: “6 deaths in the US from COVID-19. Only 63,994 to go to catch up with the common flu.”
Here we are one month later, and the U.S. is quickly gaining on the common flu’s death toll. In fact, current estimates project that there could be anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S., provided Americans do everything right. The only catch? So far, U.S. leaders have not done everything right.
Stay safe out there, folks. We have a long road ahead.