CNN’s Dana Bash pressed US Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn repeatedly Sunday morning to explain the President’s false statement in his Fourth of July speech from the South Lawn of the White House, one that minimized the devastating effects of the virus and seemed to encourage Americans to ignore the deadly risks of a pandemic that has so far claimed more than 129,000 American lives.
“I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told Bash during CNN’s “State of the Union” when she asked him to explain the basis for the President’s claim and why he would be pushing the narrative that most Covid-19 cases are harmless when his public health experts are saying the opposite.
“What I’ll say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously,” the FDA chief said, after Bash asked him for the fourth time to correct the misinformation from the President.
Hahn’s refusal to specifically address Trump’s misleading claim underscored the growing trust gap between Americans and this administration. Hahn apparently was afraid to correct the President — a pattern that has repeated itself over and over again in an administration where disagreeing with or undercutting Trump has cost many appointees their jobs.
If Trump officials are afraid to correct basic facts in the midst of a pandemic — where the President seems to believe his reelection campaign is contingent on his ability to deliver good news about an economic revival and finding a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus — can Americans trust the information coming from Trump and the administration about the safety and effectiveness of a potential vaccine later this year or next?
Only 26% of registered voters trusted Trump to give accurate information about the coronavirus, according to last month’s New York Times/Siena College poll; about 77% of registered voters trusted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While Hahn urged Americans to follow the guidance from the CDC and public health experts — noting that if they do not follow the guidelines from the CDC they are putting themselves and “your loved ones at risk” — he did not delve into the statistics that better explain why the President’s 99% claim is so misleading.
The US case fatality rate from coronavirus stood at 4.6% on Saturday when the President made the claim, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The CDC estimates that a third of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic, but that does not make the disease any less threatening since people with mild or no symptoms can pass the virus on to others.
Beyond that, the World Health Organization has said that 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care. And cities like Los Angeles, Houston and other parts of Texas, Arizona and Florida are watching their hospitals fill up with Covid-19 cases as the virus spikes in those hotspots, once again raising concern about the availability of intensive care unit beds.
“We need to accept the fact that we’re in the second wave right now,” former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday during CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s not a clear line of sight on how we’re going to get this under control.”