Coronavirus: Top scientist slams Trump for distorting facts and denying the seriousness of the outbreak

Dr H Holden Thorp, editor in chief, Science journals, wrote, "While scientists are trying to share facts about the epidemic, the administration either blocks those facts or restates them with contradictions"


                            Coronavirus: Top scientist slams Trump for distorting facts and denying the seriousness of the outbreak
Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
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A top scientist has blamed US President Donald Trump for the government’s sluggish response to the new coronavirus outbreak, which is now a pandemic

It is dangerous how Trump has been distorting facts and denying the seriousness of the situation, wrote Dr. H. Holden Thorp, Editor-in-Chief, Science journals. This has contributed to the poor response, allowing the virus to spread wide across the country, particularly in Washington and California. So far, the virus has sickened 1,300 people and killed 38 in the US.

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And this is about to get worse, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Congress hearing on the country's preparedness for the outbreak. 

"While scientists are trying to share facts about the epidemic, the administration either blocks those facts or restates them with contradictions," said Dr. Thorp, who is the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor at the Washington University in St Louis.

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It also does not help that the US seems to be going the China way. "Informing government scientists that they must clear all public comments with Vice President Mike Pence is unacceptable. This is not a time for someone who denies evolution, climate change, and the dangers of smoking to shape the public message," Dr. Thorp wrote.

For some time now, Trump maintained that the situation in the US was under control, despite evidence indicating that the virus has been spreading undeterred in Washington state and beyond, according to Dr. Thorp.

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Trump's comments on coronavirus have grabbed headlines, drawing criticisms from scientists and the media. He had likened the coronavirus outbreak to flu, undermining the gravity of the situation. "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!", he tweeted earlier.

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Experts have dismissed his statements since. “This virus is not SARS, it’s not MERS, and it’s not influenza,” the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing.  “It is a unique virus with unique characteristics," he added.

What is more, when Tedros said that about 3.4% of those infected of COVID-19 have died, Trump dismissed the estimate. “I think the 3.4% is a false number,” he told  Fox News.

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“Now, this is just my hunch,” Trump said. He also added that his hunch was “based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this because a lot of people will have this, and it’s very mild – they’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor.” 

COVID-19 is 10 times more fatal than the flu. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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The WHO's estimate is based on the number of reported cases. According to experts, the mortality rate -- which means dividing the number of deaths by the number of infections --can go down when health workers catch more undetected cases.

Even then, COVID-19 is 10 times more fatal than the flu, Fauci said.

Trump told Fox News that people with mild symptoms should be able to go to work, contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The federal health agency had advised employees to stay home if they are sick, given the infectious nature of the virus.

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However, his stance seems to be changing now. He announced that he is restricting travel to the United States from more than two dozen European countries.

Coronavirus vaccine could take a year and a half to reach the markets. (Getty Images).

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Further, the US president, who has been skeptical of vaccines, is now asking experts to fast track the development of vaccines. "Do me a favor, speed it up, speed it up," he reportedly told the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference. A vaccine could take a year and a half to reach the markets.

Fauci said the US is evaluating about 10 candidate vaccines -- the first clinical trial is set to begin in the next four weeks.

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"Maybe we should be happy. Three years ago, the president declared his skepticism of vaccines and tried to launch an antivaccine task force. Now he suddenly loves vaccines", Dr. Thorp said.  "But do us a favor, Mr. President. If you want something, start treating science and its principles with respect," he added.
 

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Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.