The President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, wants you to know that America will defeat the COVID-19 virus, “which began in China.”
Addressing the nation this evening, President Trump made one thing very clear: he is not to be blamed for this virus. After namechecking China at the start of his remarks, President Trump then immediately and incorrectly placed the blame for American cases of COVID-19 firmly on Europe.
President Trump blamed “Europe” for seeding cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. — he referred to the virus mostly as “the virus” throughout his address, but did once refer to it as “coronavirus” — responding to the threat of its spread across the European Union by suspending for 30 days all travel from Europe.
“Anything coming from Europe to the U.S. is what we’re talking about,” President Trump clarified, adding that exemptions would be made for cleared individuals and the U.K.
The President then read off a litany of policy measures which at times it appeared he was reading and attempting to process for the first time: health insurance copays waived for coronavirus treatment (but conspicuously not for testing. [UPDATE: Spokesperson for health insurance lobby says Trump got it backwards, “For testing. Not for treatment.” h/t Sarah Owermohle]), making “antiviral therapies available” (in something called “record time”) and touting coronavirus testing capabilities that are “expanding rapidly, day by day, we moving very quickly.”
“The risk is very, very low,” Trump reassured Americans, describing a virus which just moments ago had caused him to suspend travel from Europe, adding that “young and healthy people can expect to recover very quickly” from infection. “The elderly population must be very, very careful,” said the 73-year-old man.
President Trump then wound himself up for a quote just short and bland enough to imagine he came up with it himself, “Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.”
The President then pivoted to the presumed actual reason for his national address:
“This is not a financial crisis,” President Trump said, which is, of course, an exceedingly strange way to describe a stock market which has seen just this week the Dow Jones tumble 12.4%. The President did offer did offer words of encouragement for Wall Street (and, um, everyone?), “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and a world.” Indeed.
President Trump added that he had directed the Small Business Administration to administer $50 billion in capital and that he would authorize tax deferments to “certain individuals negatively impacted” by the spread of coronavirus. He called on Congress to provide immediate payroll tax relief, then moments later spiked the political football, pleading, “We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify as one nation.”
“The virus will not have a chance against us. Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine.”
Then you’ll forgive me if I’m wearing shades, Mr. President. My eyes are watering.
UPDATE: If Trump was hoping to calm markets, yeah, it didn’t work.
h/t Ashley Feinberg