Written by Kirk Laughead
There is quite a bit of uproar over the revelations in Bob Woodward’s new book regarding President Trump’s comments on the seriousness of COVID-19. Democrats believe the president’s response has caused unnecessary suffering and death. However, I believe that the president made the correct decision to lean towards optimism and to minimize the spread of fear and panic.
The grievance being raised is in regard to the president’s conversation with Woodward on February 7, 2020. The president stated to Woodward that the virus was more serious and deadly than the flu. The president added he was concerned about the public panicking and tempered his comments so as to maintain optimism—he purposely downplayed it.
His approach was actually quite prescient because on that same day, as reported in The Guardian, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a potential world shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks. They raised serious concerns that their announcement might lead to people stockpiling these items and causing shortages for front line workers that needed these crucial supplies to treat patients.
People seem to have forgotten about the hoarding that was taking place. These were valid concerns that even made their way into the debate about whether we should wear masks or not, with a very valid recognition that a mask decree would trigger mask hoarding. These concerns about human nature were illustrated and proven true a month later, when store shelves were emptied of everything from canned foods and dry goods to toilet paper.
But think how badly this hoarding would have been if announcements were made the same day of that interview. It was much earlier in the pandemic and our supply chains were barely getting into the correct mindset to ensure that our entire distribution pipeline didn’t grind to a halt. That would have been the result of the president making the announcement that the experts now say he should have done then.
Let’s assume President Trump did make the prescribed announcement that the virus is the new plague and everyone is going to die from it, which would have been the way it would have been received. Don’t forget we knew almost nothing about it other than the catastrophic death counts in Italy and the videos of people dropping dead in the streets of Wuhan. Now add on top of that the WHO announcement that there’s not enough PPE and masks in the world to handle it.
There would have been complete pandemonium. What we went through in March would seem like a minor inconvenience compared to the public meltdown that would have ensued if both of those announcements came on the same day. The resulting hoarding and shortages would have precipitated the healthcare system being overrun, which is what we feared most. That would have created even more panic and death. We very likely would be looking at deaths in those extreme ranges that were showing in the models at that time.
When viewed in context, history will show that those that are screaming the loudest about this were nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacks and not very good ones because they are still getting it wrong even with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.