Although coronavirus has claimed more than 2700 lives so far (as of Wednesday, February 26), it still doesn’t fit the definition of a global pandemic — not yet, anyway. But health officials around the world are worried that it could become a pandemic, and an article published in Politico this week examines the effects that coronavirus could possibly have economically and politically — and how it could threaten President Donald Trump’s prospects for reelection.
“President Donald Trump’s top aides faced an increasingly urgent threat Monday, with potentially monumental implications: a global outbreak knocking down the U.S. economy and walloping markets in an election year — all against accusations about whether the Trump Administration had mismanaged and underfunded a critical response with American lives on the line,” journalists Dan Diamond and Nancy Cook report in Politico.
Coronavirus, Diamond and Cook note, has already caused a “swift drop in the stock market.” And Stephen Moore, who served as a Trump campaign adviser in 2016, is warning that Trump’s 2020 campaign could suffer if the stock market continues to suffer.
“Trump’s reelection effort is so closely tied to the strength of the stock market and the economy,” Diamond and Cook quote Moore as saying. “Anything that shakes us off of that pro-growth track is a concern, but I think the view of officials in the White House is that this will be contained.”
On February 24, Trump tweeted that coronavirus is “very much under control in the USA.” But Diamond and Cook report that according to an anonymous source they describe as a “Republican close to the White House,” Trump officials have been studying the possible economic impacts of coronavirus.
“Among policy aides,” Diamond and Cook explain, “there‘s widespread concern that the spread of the coronavirus will hit a slew of industries, including manufacturers, airlines, automakers and tech companies — slowing down both the U.S. and Chinese economies. Aides fear the White House has few economic tricks it can deploy to lessen the impact.”
The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2020
The Politico journalists also note that there has been some tension between Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on coronavirus. Azar has been handling the federal government’s response to coronavirus, and Diamond and Cook point out that “the pressure-packed coronavirus fight has reopened year-old cracks between the White House and Azar, who has few allies in the White House.”
A former HHS official, quoted anonymously, told Politico, “If we have an outbreak in the United States and didn’t pick it up, that’s going to be a public health mistake of historic proportion.”
In a February 25 news conference, Dr. Nancy Messonnier — director of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases — warned that it’s not a question of “if” coronavirus will spread in the U.S., but “when.” Messonnier asserted, “Now’s the time for businesses, hospitals, community schools and everyday people to begin preparing.”