April's dumbest and most dangerous coronavirus declarations

In 2020, April has, indeed, been the cruelest month. COVID-19 fatalities have skyrocketed — as have dumb and dangerous declarations about the virus. Here’s a top ten countdown: 

  1. On the same day a World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employee tested positive for the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisJournalist covering Trump trip to Florida tests positive for coronavirus Governors declare emergency as hurricane bears down on Florida Florida newspaper editorial board asks DeSantis to issue statewide mask order: 'We're dying here' MORE (R-Fla.) declared that professional sports entertainment was “an essential business,” permitted to operate in a format without a live audience. On that day, Linda McMahonLinda Marie McMahonApril's dumbest and most dangerous coronavirus declarations Trump convenes sports commissioners in hopes of filling stadiums Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief MORE (the founder of the WWE, CEO from 1980-2009, and Trump- appointed administrator of the Small Business Administration until 2019) donated $18 million to the Republican 2020 election campaign.
  1. Just after April Fool’s Day, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) declared he had “only found out in the last 24 hours that individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad.” Apparently, he was unaware of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since January, Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Fauci warns of 'really bad situation' if daily coronavirus cases don't drop to 10K by September Overnight Health Care: Trump criticizes Birx over Pelosi, COVID-19 remarks: 'Pathetic' | Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House | WHO chief: There may never be 'silver bullet' for coronavirus MORE’s televised claim in late January, “there is no doubt that asymptomatic transmission is occurring,” a similar statement by CDC Director Robert Redfield in mid-February, the statement by Dr. Deborah Birx during a nationally televised coronavirus briefing on March 14 and subsequent statements from Redfield on March 30. The many critics of Gov. Kemp’s decision to allow hair salons, tattoo parlors, restaurants, and movie theaters to open at the end of April included President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE
  1. “In my opinion, you have to go ahead,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman (I-Las Vegas) declared. “Every day you get up, it’s a gamble.” Goodman wanted casino and hotel employees to return to work — and thereby serve as a “control group” to determine the effectiveness of social distancing. When studying a disease, she said, “you have a placebo that gets them water and sugar, and then you get those that actually get the shot. We would love to be that placebo side so you have something to measure against.”
  1. “I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet, arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us 2-3 percent in terms of total mortality,” Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and talk show host, declared on Fox News. “Any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into school where they’re safely being educated, being fed and making the most out of their lives with a theoretical risk on the backside — it might be a trade-off some folks would consider.” A few days later, Dr. Oz said he “misspoke.”
  1. “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile,” said Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and minister of everything. “It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles they then use.” Within a day, the following sentence was removed from the Strategic National Stockpile website: “When state, local, tribal and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicine and supplies get to those who need them most in an emergency.” A new sentence — the stockpile is “a short-term stopgap buffer” for states “which have products stockpiled as well” — replaced it.
  1. Several weeks after Ann CoulterAnn Hart CoulterFauci responds to 'mischievous' critics of photo at Nats game Conservatives mock Fauci on first pitch Lawsuit accuses ex-Fox host Ed Henry of rape MORE, a right-wing performance artist, misread a graph and tweeted that the coronavirus is less dangerous than the flu, she was at it again. Chinese Americans, she declared, using Queens, N.Y., as evidence, spread the coronavirus more than “other nationalities.” Coulter did not address the problems Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom pose to her theory. “Americans who didn’t have to be dead are dead,” Coulter added, “because of Wall Street’s decision to merge our economy with the Chinese, who have unusual eating habits.”
  1. About a month after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.) requested and received federal funds to support coronavirus treatment in his state, he declared he would “certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.” His office characterized federal coronavirus aid to states as “blue-state bailouts.”
  1. “I sure as hell think we ought to give it [hydroxychloroquine] a try,” President Trump declared. Acknowledging the FDA had not approved the drug for use except in hospital-based clinical trials, Trump opined “I’m a smart guy… I’ve been right a lot.” The president asked COVID-19 patients, “What have you got to lose?” A recent study found a higher death rate among those who were treated with the drug.
  1. “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just a very powerful light… And supposing you brought the light inside the body,” President Trump said during a nationally televised coronavirus briefing. The president then noted that disinfectant kills the virus “in a minute” and asked the health professionals present: “Is there a way we can do something like that with an injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, had a different view: “It’s a common method people utilize when they want to kill themselves.” Lysol issued a stern warning against any ingestion or injection of its product in the body. Following multiple attempts to explain or excuse Trump’s comments — he was being sarcastic; he was musing — the White House put daily coronavirus briefings on pause.
  1. In mid-February, President Trump declared “You know, a lot of people think that [the coronavirus] goes away in April with the heat… Typically, that will go away in April.” At the end of April, with more than 1 million people infected and over 60,000 dead, Trump declared “It may not come back at all” in the fall. “If we have pockets, a little pocket here or there, were’ going to have it put out. It goes out, and it’s going to go out fast… But it’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, on the other hand, said: “We will have coronavirus in the fall.” As Donald Trump is wont to say, “We’ll see.”

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.