President Donald Trump has been threading the thinnest of needles since the outbreak of coronavirus in California and Washington in early February. As president, it is simultaneously his job to prevent widespread panic, update the public responsibly about the course of the emergency, and head up the national response to the crisis. Last Thursday, in a primetime address to the nation, Trump took some of the most drastic action in U.S. history to slow the pandemic, shutting down inbound flights from Europe. Later in the weekend, he extended that flight ban to the United Kingdom.
And on Monday, Trump made it as clear as the president can make it: This pandemic is serious, and we need to take massive national action now if we don’t want to look like Italy within 10 days.
“We have an invisible enemy,” the president explained. “This is a bad one. This is a very bad one.”
President Trump released new federal guidelines called 15 Days to Stop the Spread. Those guidelines call for people to avoid groups of 10 or more for the next two weeks, avoid eating out at restaurants and bars, work from home when possible, and definitely stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
“Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus,” Trump said. “If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation, and we will defeat the virus, and we’re going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.”
Trump was surrounded by his team of epidemiology experts, including the ever-present Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said that Americans should take the federal recommendations to heart.
“When you’re dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think that today reflects where you really are. That’s not word speak. It means if you think you’re here,” Fauci said, using his hand to delineate a certain point, “you’re really here because you’re only getting the results. Therefore, it will always seem that the best way to address it would be to be doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction. It isn’t an overreaction.”
The important thing right now is that term that we’ve all seen: Flattening the curve. Even assuming that everyone in the country will get this disease, it is essential that we ensure that not everyone gets it in the next two weeks. That would put us in an Italy-like situation, where hospitals literally have to assess which patients get extreme treatment and which ones are left to fight it out on their own.
It’s essential that every state and, to the extent possible, every single individual follow President Trump’s guidelines.