The coronavirus is more urgent than Pence says

By ESTHER GONZALES
On March 4, 2020

Photo courtesy of The White House, Flickr

As fear of the coronavirus sweeps through the United States, potentially hitting close to home, President Donald Trump has ushered Vice President Mike Pence in as the leader in charge of all communication regarding news of the virus. 

This has been seen as extremely problematic. 

The White House has authorized health officials to not make any comments to the press or media without first receiving permission from Pence. Although this may seem like an attempt to provide more unified information, Trump has repeatedly made comments that the media is overstating the threat of the virus. Is this then an attempt for President Trump to control the media? 

In 2018, the Trump administration cut the Senior Director position for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to ABC News. 

Although Trump was met with outrage and a letter signed by over 27 senators to reinstate the position, he did no such thing. Now, as we are facing a potential pandemic, Trump is being condemned for eliminating a position that we currently need the most. 

Health officials and members of the Trump administration continue to discuss the budget that needs to be allocated towards the creation of a vaccine for the virus. Some say $2.5 billion, while others, such as Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, suggested $8.5 billion. 

President Trump has also requested several budget cuts to the CDC, including cutting funding by 16 percent. Officials set aside $50 million for potential health risks and problems in the budget. Snopes reported that these budget cuts would take place in 2021 and have not yet been accepted or rejected by Congress.

Trump continues to insist that journalists and news outlets, such as CNN, are trying to gain a political advantage when spreading news regarding the virus to bring him down as he seeks re-election. But what if that is far from the truth? 

“Because of the dishonesty from this administration on this and many other issues, Americans have lost trust in their government,” Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a congressional hearing on Friday, according to the New York Times. “Now we’re facing a serious global health crisis in the form of the coronavirus and trust is more important than ever.” 

Undoubtedly, we deserve to know the truth of what is happening with the coronavirus. It seems as if President Trump is downplaying the severity of the issue and accusing the media of trying to bring him down. In this situation, the media acts as a gatekeeper of truth. 

It is important now more than ever for the media and journalists to be vigilant in providing information as the president seeks to silence them. Health officials and journalists should not be silenced. Under the First Amendment, we are guaranteed freedom of speech. In times like this with a health threat so close, our rights should be upheld. 

One message which both Trump and Pence have been reinforcing to the American people is that the risk of the virus in the USA remains extremely low. This past week however, 11 people have died from the virus and California holds at least 54 cases as of Wednesday, according to The New York Times. 

Additionally, Washington, California and Florida have all declared a state of emergency. 

Personally, I think it is good to have a team in place to address concerns for the virus. But I also think they are not doing a good enough job telling us all the information they have. 

President Trump should stop hiding information. I believe he has a duty as the president to try and protect the American people. Rather than caring only about himself, he should try to stop dividing the nation and stop blaming the media just so it could seem like he is in control. 

 

egonzal9@ramapo.edu 

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