Despite reports that it was Donald Trump himself who initially “made clear” that he did not want widespread coronavirus testing because he purportedly believed lower case numbers would be “better for his potential reelection this fall,” Trump on Tuesday was able to identify only one problem with his response to the deadly pandemic.
“The only thing we have not done well is to get good press,” Trump said at a press briefing on the coronavirus response Tuesday morning, as quoted via Twitter by CNN reporter Daniel Dale. “I don’t know who to blame for that. Maybe I can blame ourselves for that.”
Trump singled out his administration’s ban, imposed on January 31, on travelers who recently visited coronavirus-hit areas of China, saying that “the press doesn’t like writing about” what he called “the closing down of the borders.”
Trump said the move, which restricted travel from China by non-U.S. citizens, “had never been done.” Yet, travel restrictions have often been used during disease outbreaks and pandemics — though experts say that such restrictions do little to stop the spread of disease, according to a report by Vox.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan imposed a ban on travel from several foreign countries in a supposed attempt to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS infections, according to the Vox report.
A later review of the HIV/AIDS travel restrictions called the bans “ineffective, impractical, costly, harmful, and may be discriminatory,” Vox wrote. Despite the 1987 travel ban, the disease became a pandemic by the 1990s. Nonetheless, the Reagan-era bans remained in place until the start of the Barack Obama administration in 2009.
In the SARS outbreak of 2003, Canada imposed strict screening for the disease at airports, testing millions of travelers yet failing to catch even one instance of a traveler carrying the respiratory disease that ultimately killed 44 Canadians. The effort was “a waste of money and human resources,” according to the Vox report.
Nonetheless, Trump has given himself high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which as of Friday had killed 97 people in the U.S. On Monday, at a press briefing, Trump said that he rated his performance in the crisis “a 10” on a scale of one to 10, as quoted by MediaIte.
“I think we’ve done a great job.” Trump said at the Monday briefing, also citing the travel ban against non-citizens who had visited China in the previous 14 days.
Trump was also asked if he felt “the buck stopped” with him, in terms of responsibility for delays in response to the pandemic.
“Yeah, normally, but … This has never been done before in this country,” Trump said, as quoted by MediaIte.