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‘We scared the hell out of the American people’ over ‘flu,’ says Fox News guest

‘We scared the hell out of the American people’ over ‘flu,’ says Fox News guest
Former education secretary Bill Bennett has been savaged online for suggesting that the coronavirus is “not a pandemic,” calling for the lifting of lockdown measures, as the debate rages over reopening the shuttered US economy.

More than half a million Americans have caught the coronavirus, with just over 22,000 deaths. While the numbers are dire, the University of Washington’s forecasters revised their total predicted Covid-19 deaths down to 60,000 last week, a number comparable to deaths from influenza in 2017-2018, and significantly lower than the six-figure death toll floated by President Donald Trump’s top medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, last month. 

“For this, we scared the hell out of the American people, we lost 17 million jobs, we put a major dent in the economy, we closed down the schools... shut down the churches,” Bennett said on Monday’s edition of Fox and Friends. “You know, this was not, and is not a pandemic. But we do have panic and pandemonium as a result of the hype of this.”

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11 and it has been reported in almost every country around the world. Bennett was flayed online for his “aggressively stupid” statement.

“Bill Bennett may be a self-proclaimed ethics expert, but he obviously knows very little about logic and cause-and-effect,” wrote author Ward Carroll.

“It is deeply irresponsible to air this view on national television,”tweeted CNN’s Chris Cillizza, while neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol suggested the low death toll was a direct result of the government scaring “the hell out of the American people.”

Modeling the spread of infectious diseases is an imprecise science. While the University of Washington’s researchers attribute their revised predictions to crucial” social distancing measures and recommend they remain in place until the end of May, many initial predictions about the virus were wrong. When it first entered the US in January, media outlets urged Americans not to panic, warning them that the flu was a more imminent threat. These same outlets now tell a different story

Likewise, Fauci himself said in February that there was “no need to change anything you’re doing on a day-to-day basis.” On Sunday, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the government “could have saved lives” if social distancing started earlier.

With commentators on the right demanding a relaxation of lockdown rules, and Trump’s advisers telling the president – to quote Fauci – that “the virus decides” when things return to normal, no clear path forward is obvious.

Also on rt.com Collision course with Trump? Cuomo says governors will decide when to lift lockdown, not White House

Over the weekend, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) threatened anyone attending in-person church services with misdemeanor violations and promised to record the license plates of attendees and force them to self-isolate for two weeks. A conservative backlash ensued, with churchgoers just one group tiring of the lockdown measures.

Some governors and mayors have insisted that they’ll lock down their states and cities for as long as necessary, should Trump lift restrictions in May. Connecticut’s Ned Lamont, for example, has extended his state’s stay-at-home order until at least May 30, saying“now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator.”

However, Trump has insisted that he has the power to order states to resume business as usual, and blamed the “fake news media” for stating otherwise. A decision on reopening the American economy, he tweeted on Monday, “will be made shortly.”

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