Monday, March 9, 2020

CPAC Attendees Mocked Coronavirus Fears. Now Some Are Self-Quarantining.

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown - March 09, 2020 at 09:30AM

Coronavirus comes to CPAC. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)—held just outside Washington, D.C., two weekends ago—attendees mocked media and Democrats for their reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak. Conferencegoers told a Hannity correspondent that Democrats were deliberately freaking out over nothing in order "to make the economy tank" and to make President Donald Trump look bad. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the disease's dangers were being overhyped because "they think this will bring down the president." And the president himself said onstage that the notion they weren't well prepared for a pandemic was a "hoax" being perpetuated by the Democrats.

CPAC attendees had better hope that Trump was right.

On Saturday, conference organizers announced that at least one attendee had been tested positive for the disease. The organization didn't say much more than that, assuring attendees that the infected person hadn't been in the main part of the event.

But as more information comes out, it seems the infected attendee was still in contact with quite a lot of people, spending time in the CPAC "green room" (where speakers and panelists hang out before taking the stage) and possibly attending a CPAC dinner. The many people passing in and out of the green room included White House officials, members of Congress, political organizers, and TV pundits.

Vice President Mike Pence and four other members of the president's coronavirus task force all gave addresses at CPAC.

Some at CPAC know that they had contact directly with the infected person (whose identity is not being revealed). This includes CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp (who would have been in contact with people all over the event), Rep. Paul Gosar (R–Ariz.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas).

Gosar and Cruz have announced that they're self-quaranting themselves.

Some CPAC attendees are angry about what they see as too little information, too late, from CPAC organizers.

Meanwhile, Trump is still insisting there's nothing to see here:

On Friday, he asked "Does anybody die from the flu? I didn't know people died from the flu." (Trump's grandfather died of the flu.)

As for how his administration has been handling the outbreak, the evidence isn't reassuring. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totally botched its first round of coronavirus tests. Yet no one else could even attempt their own tests, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"FDA rules initially prevented state and commercial labs from developing their own coronavirus diagnostic tests," notes the MIT Technology Review:

The CDC and FDA reversed course and lifted this rule on February 29, and commercial and academic labs are now allowed to participate….This week, state and commercial labs began testing on their own. We're already seeing major steps forward; the University of Washington, for instance, has a new diagnostic that will allow it to test 1,500 samples a day. A group in Japan claims to have a test that can detect the virus in just 10 to 30 minutes.

"The great strength the US has always had, not just in virology, is that we've always had a wide variety of people and groups working on any given problem," says Jerome. "When we decided all coronavirus testing had to be done by a single entity, even one as outstanding as CDC, we basically gave away our greatest strength."

Thankfully, private institutions are stepping up to fill the gaps left by government testing schemes:


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