Misinformation: the Unspoken Symptom of Coronavirus
According to the Washington Post, President Donald Trump made 492 false or misleading claims during his first 100 days in office. Now, in the final year of his presidency, the Washington Post fact-checkers have recorded President Trump making a whopping 18,000 false or misleading claims throughout the entirety of his time as president. Among the most repeated claims are assertions about the economy, the wall he promised would be built on U.S.-Mexico border, and the Mueller report. After more than three years of Trump’s America, the constant, unrelenting repetition of misinformation has become unsurprising. While still incredibly frustrating and unacceptable, the President’s persistent lies and manipulation have come to feel more like an unfortunate reality that no longer garners the same impassioned response it once did. Yet as the U.S. hits the two-month mark of quarantine, Trump’s inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic has proved how dangerous this misinformation can be.
When armed citizens stormed the Michigan state capitol protesting the more stringent details of the state’s mandatory lockdown, President Trump exclaimed “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” on his Twitter in solidarity with people who are ignoring professional advice and worsening the effects of coronavirus in America. He also insisted that there had been “very good reports” of hydroxychloroquine, the medicine used to prevent malaria, working as a remedy for coronavirus— a drug that the FDA promptly cautioned against using to treat COVID-19 due to risk of heart rhythm problems. Additionally, in a briefing on April 23rd, he made a comment suggesting that the injection of disinfectants like bleach could be used on COVID-19 patients. Despite immediate backlash from healthcare professionals and political opponents like Joe Biden, the words that Trump seems to throw around carelessly have had a real impact on many Americans.
“It makes a lot of people confused and anxious in a time where there is already enough anxiety just because of the virus itself—the last thing you should be worrying about is if the president and his administration are telling the truth,” said Nick Yohn (‘21).
Now more than ever before, Trump has the responsibility of uniting the country, providing honest information, and fulfilling his duties as a leader in order to bring progress and hope to the U.S. The government should be an outlet that Americans are able to look to for the truth, not one that we have to constantly question. Increasing the uncertainty and ills of the country during this deeply unsettling time is only one of the consequences of the misinformation that Trump has spread.
“He undermines the people in the medical field who actually know what they’re talking about and it makes our country look bad as a whole,” said Annabel Barnett (‘20). “He devalues the people who are credible and actually have important information to share.”
The influence that Trump possesses has the power to change how America is impacted by the coronavirus for the better or for the worse. He has the power to work in conjunction with medical professionals, as opposed to against them, who can offer helpful information that will steer us in the direction of genuine progress. He has the power to rightfully condemn those breaking quarantine and encourage states to stay in lockdown until it is actually safe to open again. But instead, he uses his power to undo the hard work of the healthcare professionals and all essential workers that are risking their own health to keep our country functional and our citizens safe.
From the perspective of an American, it is difficult to know what to do in our current situation. Whether his statements are false, misleading, or true, Trump undoubtedly has an immense amount of impact on America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. There are a lot of things we can be doing, however small, to contribute to the circulation of true information and the halt of the spread of coronavirus, such as staying in quarantine.
“If people living in New York can show that we’re able to live by these guidelines while being in a very dangerous spot concerning the virus, so should people across the country,” says Henry Petrini (‘21).
New York could be considered the epicenter of the virus in the country, if not the entire world, with more than 100,000 current cases. If New Yorkers can prove that we can maintain lockdown and listen to the information of professionals, that could inspire the rest of the country to follow suit.
“Get your information from credible sources, I would say that the CDC (The Center for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization) are the two most credible sources on covid, and try to ignore the political back and forth,” advised Nick.
By simply getting news from credible sources, you can promote the spread of accurate information surrounding the virus and the debunking of inaccurate information.
Henry shared this sentiment: “One of the best things that we can do right now is follow the guidelines of the people who actually know what they are talking about.”
Lastly, and most importantly, there is the larger goal of voting Donald Trump out of office. The misinformation that has become viral during this pandemic has existed long before now. It should never be acceptable for a president to blatantly lie to their country. The fact that Trump has supplied America with so much misinformation to the extent that it has become a norm is frightening. It is the responsibility of the government to be honest with its citizens, and Trump has categorically failed to do so. Our responsibility as Americans is to refuse to justify that dishonesty simply because of the position of power that Trump holds. Now more than ever, we need to be holding our government accountable and recognizing what we can do to enforce the normalcy of receiving honest information from the politicians who have promised to do just that.