Thursday, March 12, 2020

Trump Confuses Nation With COVID-19 Address

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown - March 12, 2020 at 09:35AM

Televised Trump talk spreads confusion over U.S. response to coronavirus in Europe. There's so much noise surrounding COVID-19 right now that it's hard to know what to make of things. It doesn't help when the president can't even get his own policy details straight.

Last night, President Donald Trump announced on TV that the U.S. will suspend travel from some European countries for 30 days. "These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground," he said from the Oval Office, and "there will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings."

But he didn't just announce this—he massively overstated the extent of his coronavirus containment plan.

The actual plan isn't deeply worrying. Whether or not it's a good idea to curb European travel, that hasn't been one of Trump's immigration goals, so ulterior motives probably aren't at work here. And should things get dicey, it's not like some of the most powerful countries in the world (and longtime American allies and trading partners) will just quietly take an attempt to extend the ban beyond what might be reasonable for public health.

But if you got a different impression from Trump's talk last night, you can only blame the president for that. Here are some details that got scrambled:

A lot of European countries are excluded from travel restrictions. But that's not what Trump said in his televised address. He implied that travel restrictions would apply to all European countries except the U.K.

That's not only a lot more extreme than the real plan; it made it seem like Trump was playing favorites. (The U.K. has been affected by COVID-19 to a similar degree as many countries purportedly included.) That, in turn, made the move seem more ominous.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, however, the ban applies only to Europe's Schengen Zone, where citizens of member countries (including outbreak-heavy countries such as Italy) are able to travel between one another relatively freely. The area includes a large number of countries (26 officially), but it is not all of Europe. Besides the U.K., it excludes Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Croatia, Ireland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, and around a dozen other countries.

Officials "clarified that the new travel restrictions would apply only to most foreign nationals who have been in the 'Schengen Area' at any point for 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States," reports the AP. "The White House said the zone has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of mainland China."

No trade ban. "These prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but other things as we get approval," Trump said last night. The White House later clarified that goods and trade were not included in the time-out:

Coronavirus treatment isn't free. The president kind of overpromised here:

Meanwhile, the administration is planning a bailout package for hotel, airline, and cruise ship companies. "This package isn't going to include everything," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Wednesday. "This is round one. We'll be back for more."

Trump has also been floating a payroll tax cut, which is something he's been angling for long before this coronavirus outbreakwhich, by the way, the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic yesterday.

In other coronavirus news: "Initial hopes that the public health consequences of the new coronavirus would be mild are fading," reports Reason's Ron Bailey:

The delay in rolling out a more comprehensive testing regime means that undiagnosed cases are rising. Estimates vary from a few thousand to as many as 50,000 infections among Americans.

At a congressional hearing [Wednesday] afternoon, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested that COVID-19 is is considerably more dangerous than run-of-the-mill flu. He observed, "The flu has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That's the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this."

And "due to red tape, the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will be worse than it should have been," Bailey points out.

Schools around the U.S. continue to close, a slew of state governors are considering or enacting bans on big events, and the quarantining situation in some other countries, especially Italy, continues to get more intense.

"Although it seems unlikely that the United States would copy either China's approach or the milder but still draconian Italian model, the extent of state and federal quarantine powers is surprisingly unsettled," notes Reason's Jacob Sullum.


FREE MINDS

A man in London "has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV," the BBC reports. "Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy."

Castillejo was treated with stem cells as part of treatment for cancer. An article published this week in The Lancet has more details.


FREE MARKETS

Can cops destroy your home for no good reason and then refuse to cover the damage? That's the issue at the center of a new Institute for Justice (IJ) case. Writes IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara:

When our client Shaniz West came home to find her house surrounded by local police looking for her ex-boyfriend, she did what the government probably hopes all citizens would do. She told them the truth (her ex wasn't there) but gave them permission to go inside to look for themselves.

The problem is that they didn't go inside—at least, not for a long time. Instead, they decided to besiege the house, repeatedly firing tear-gas grenades and destroying walls, ceilings, and essentially everything Shaniz owned. At the end of the siege, the police discovered what Shaniz had already told them: The ex-boyfriend wasn't there. Instead, they had spent the day bombarding a house that was empty except for Shaniz's dog, Blue.

Shaniz sued, arguing that she had given police consent only to go inside her house, not to blow it up. But she lost. She didn't lose because the courts held that consent to go into a house is consent to destroy it. She lost because no court had ever ruled in a case exactly like hers before. And because no court had explicitly considered these facts, qualified immunity applied.

IJ is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to take Shaniz's case and rule that qualified immunity cannot be used like this to strip basic protections for property rights.

In another case (both are part of the institute's Project on Immunity and Accountability), a family had their home destroyed by police who were chasing a shoplifter who had "randomly taken refuge [there] while fleeing the police," as IJ puts it in a press release. "The fugitive was apprehended, but the home was totaled." Hear homeowners Leo and Alfonsina Lech tell their story in this IJ video.


QUICK HITS

  • Coronavirus is about to shut down your daily lives and its time to face it, argues Tim Carney.
  • Good or bad idea?

  • FBI excuse doesn't cut it:


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