Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on Friday that the coronavirus is likely to cause disruptions to every day life - including likely school closures and changes to public transportation.
"Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. Maybe see impacts on public transportation? Sure, but we do this. We know how to handle this," Mulvaley said while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside of Washington on Friday.
Mulvaney also slammed the media for painting a narrative that the Trump administration is "scrambling" to contain the virus, noting that he briefed Congress along with top health officials six weeks ago. He accused the media of ignoring coronavirus until now, according to The Hill.
"Why didn’t you hear about it?" Mulvaney asked the audience while sitting down with Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore. "The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president."
"Is it real? It absolutely is real," Mulvaney said. "But you saw the president the other day — the flu is real."
Mulvaney then downplayed the risk of the new coronavirus, saying that people should be focusing on the mortality rate which is currently, officially, between 2 and 3%.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney: "What I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours…This is not Ebola. It's not SARS. It's not MERS." #coronavirus #CPAC2020— CSPAN (@cspan) February 28, 2020
Full video here: https://t.co/E5ktAPiy6c pic.twitter.com/tkNBr0gRzd
What Mulvaney didn't note is that COVID-19 is hyper-virulent, and can reinfect people who have already had it. If even 1/10 of the world is infected, that's 15 - 22 million dead - a global crisis by any standard. He also didn't mention the economic impact of tens of millions of people who will survive, but can't function for several weeks.
If coronavirus gains a foothold in American cities and we begin to see footage of people falling over in the streets, we suspect the Trump administration will have much explaining to do for their early attempts to downplay the threat.