Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Trump only wants to hear good news about the coronavirus outbreak, hindering the response, officials say

When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar met with President Trump in late January, he "was having trouble focusing Trump's full attention on his coronavirus briefing," The Washington Post reports. "Trump instead interjected, badgering the health chief about the administration's messy decision to implement a limited ban on flavored e-cigarettes."

Azar "had concluded that the new coronavirus posed a public health risk and tried to share an urgent message with the president: The potential outbreak could leave tens of thousands of Americans sickened and many dead," Politico adds. "But Trump's aides mocked and belittled Azar as alarmist," and Azar, trying to ingratiate himself with Trump after a bruising fight with CMS chief Seema Verma, wasn't "in the position to deliver the message that the president didn't want to hear," one former official told Politico.

The coronavirus had already proved its ferocity in China by that point, but "the boss has made it clear, he likes to see his people fight, and he wants the news to be good," an adviser to a senior coronavirus team member tells Politico. "This is the world he's made."

Last Monday there were 89 cases in the U.S., Stephen Collinson writes at CNN. But after "a week packed with conflicting messages, misplaced optimism, and obfuscation by the president," the coronavirus "has now spread into 34 states and the District of Columbia, at least 550 cases have been confirmed, and at least 21 people have died," and "the true extent of the crisis was disguised by delays and malfunctions in coronavirus testing that suggest the administration squandered valuable time as the virus ravaged China to properly prepare for its U.S. arrival."

"For a president who lives in the moment, rarely planning too far ahead, the coronavirus has proved to be a leadership challenge he was not prepared for either," Peter Baker writes at The New York Times. Trump "has expressed an astonishing lack of knowledge while at the same time claiming to be a medical savant. He has treated the crisis as a partisan battle. ... He even admitted that he wanted to leave passengers stranded on a cruise ship rather than see statistics for the number of cases on American soil go up because it would look bad." Trump also incorrectly said tests were available for anyone who needs them.

Trump insists his administration has the COVID-19 outbreak under control.