Mar 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Science editor-in-chief: Trump’s words on coronavirus are “a matter of life and death”


Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The editor-in-chief of the journal Science called out President Trump's response to the novel coronavirus in an op-ed Wednesday, saying "distortion and denial is dangerous and almost certainly contributed to the federal government’s sluggish response."

The big picture: H. Holden Thorp wrote that while Trump is banking on the quick and effective development of a vaccine for COVID-19, the president has not always embraced science. Thorp asserts, "While scientists are trying to share facts about the epidemic, the administration either blocks those facts or restates them with contradictions."

  • The piece lamented that Vice President Mike Pence was named head of the White House's coronavirus task force, saying: "This is not a time for someone who denies evolution, climate change, and the dangers of smoking to shape the public message."

What he's saying: Thorp wrote...

  • "Anthony Fauci, the long-time leader of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been telling the president repeatedly that developing the vaccine will take at least a year and a half—the same message conveyed by pharmaceutical executives. Apparently, Trump thought that simply repeating his request would change the outcome."
  • "The administration has repeatedly said—as it did last week—that virus spread in the United States is contained, when it is clear from genomic evidence that community spread is occurring in Washington state and beyond."
  • "After 3 years of debating whether the words of this administration matter, the words are now clearly a matter of life and death."

The bottom line, per Thorpe, "A vaccine has to have a fundamental scientific basis. It has to be manufacturable. It has to be safe. This could take a year and a half—or much longer. ... But do us a favor, Mr. President. If you want something, start treating science and its principles with respect."

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