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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 DeSantisRon DeSantisIt will be Vice (or) President Harris against Gov. DeSantis in 2024 — bet on it DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Top Florida Democrat calls on FBI to investigate DeSantis over vaccine distribution 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 FauciSunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Overnight Defense: White House open to reforming war powers | Army base might house migrant children | Fauci scolds military on vaccine Overnight Health Care: CDC study links masks to fewer COVID-19 deaths | Relief debate stalls in Senate | Biden faces criticism over push to vaccinate teachers 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 TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout 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 CoulterLibrary staffer fired after being accused of burning Trump, Coulter books Drudge congratulates Warnock, says Ann Coulter should have been GOP candidate José Andrés responds to Ann Coulter calling him 'some nut foreigner' 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 McConnellBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote 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.