Democrats are chastising President Trump for his handling of the Coronavirus global pandemic, but a review of their initial handling of the crisis looks far worse in retrospect.
As news reports began circulating that the disease was able to be transmitted from person to person, Democratic lawmakers continued encouraging Americans to gather in large groups.
The Coronavirus, De Blasio said February 14th, "should not stop you from going about your life, should not stop you from going to Chinatown and going out to eat. I’m going to do that today myself.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi likewise urged Americans to patronize restaurants, specifically in Chinatown. While touring Chinatown businesses on February 28th, Pelosi said: "It’s exciting to be here, especially at this time, to be able to be unified with our community. We want to be vigilant about what might be on a — what is out there in other places. We want to be careful about how we deal with it, but we do want to say to people, come to Chinatown. Here we are. We’re, again, careful, safe and come join us.”
In New Orleans, as the city geared up for Mardi Gras despite pleas from health officials to cancel the annual week-long party, the city’s EMS confidently reassured those planning to attend: “There is no concern at this time for coronavirus in our region … the risk for us is very low.”
New York City’s health commissioner, Oxiris Barbot, ostensibly responsible for advising New Yorkers on best health practices, largely spent the last two months encouraging Gothamites to defy popular guidance for avoiding crowds as well as people recently back from China.
Barbot said that riding public transit and going out into public — including attending the Chinese Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown, were not just responsible behaviors, but would additionally help defeat anti-Asian prejudices.
“We are encouraging New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives and suggest practicing everyday precautions that we do through the flu season,” Barbot said on January 26th. She even added that those “who had recently traveled from Wuhan were not being urged to self-quarantine or avoid large public gatherings.”
On February 2nd, she urged the same lack of caution: “The risk to New Yorkers for Coronavirus is low, and our preparedness as a city is very high. There is no reason not to take the subway, not to take the bus, not to go out to your favorite restaurant, and certainly not to miss the parade next Sunday.”
”I’m going to be there,” she added for extra reassurance.
The same day, New York State Senator John Liu likewise urged New Yorkers to avoid “social distancing.”
“There is no need to panic and to avoid activities that we always do as New Yorkers,” Liu said at a press conference. “We are hardy people. As an Asian-American, I’ve been disturbed if not outright appalled by some of the comments or gestures that I have seen. Diseases originate from anywhere or from particular places in the world.”
On February 7th, Barbot offered New Yorker’s the same bad advice, telling NY1: “The important thing for New Yorkers to know is that in the city currently their risk is low and our city preparedness is high. And so we know that this virus can be transmitted from one individual to another, but that it’s typically people who live together. That there’s no risk at this point in time — we’re always learning more — about having it be transmitted in casual contact, right?”
“So we’re telling New Yorkers, go about your lives, take the subway, go out, enjoy life, but practice everyday precautions,” she said.
On March 2nd, De Blasio said during a Coronavirus press conference that there was no reason to take any precautions behind basic hygiene: “In fact, the facts are reassuring, all New Yorkers should really pay attention to this. We have a lot of information now. Information is actually showing us things that should give us more reason to stay calm and go about our lives.”
By March 10th, De Blasio was still urging New Yorkers to congregate in mass gatherings.
“For the vast majority of New Yorkers, life is going on pretty normally right now; we want to encourage that,” De Blasio told MSBNBC. “We have to look out for people here, especially those who are over 50 years old and have pre-existing conditions, like lung disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes. These are the folks we really, really need to be careful for. But if you’re under 50 and you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu. And transmission is not that easy. I think there has been a misperception that Coronavirus hangs in the air, waiting to catch you. No. It takes direct person-to-person contact, direct transmission of fluids.”