Monday, Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson urge calm but not complacency regarding the response to the coronavirus threat to the country’s well-being.
Carlson opened his Monday broadcast, criticizing both those who are hyping the threat and downplaying playing it. He also suggested rethinking the United States’ relationship with China when it comes to relying upon products the nation manufactures.
Transcript as follows:
The Chinese coronavirus epidemic turns out to be just that: an epidemic. There is no denying that now. According to the official count, this country has recorded more than 500 cases of the virus and suffered at least 24 deaths. The real number is without question far higher than that. Soon, we will have a better sense, just how much higher. By then, the epidemic will have caused economic damage whose effects may dog us for years. People you know will get sick. Some may die. This is real.
That’s the point of this script — to tell you that. You’ll be forgiven if the whole thing snuck up on you as if from nowhere An obscure virus, arising from a meat market in eastern China to sicken American citizens in Oregon and New Hampshire and Illinois? It sounds ridiculous. Nor have our leaders helped us to take it seriously. On the left, you’ve heard them tell you that the real worry is that you might use the wrong word to describe what’s happening to the country. It’s racist, they’re telling you, to blame the most racist country in the world for the spread of this virus.
Meanwhile, if we’re being honest, the other side hasn’t been especially helpful, either. People you trust have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem. It’s just partisan politics, they say. Calm down. In the end, this is just the flu, and people die from that every year. Coronavirus will pass. We’ll feel foolish for worrying when it does. That’s their position. No doubt these people have good intentions as they say it, many of them anyway. They may not know any better. They’re just not paying attention. Or they believe they’re serving some higher cause by shading reality. Nobody wants to be manipulated by a corrupt media establishment. There’s an election coming up; best not to say anything that might help the other side. We get it. But they’re wrong.
The Chinese coronavirus is a major event. It will affect your life. And by the way, it’s definitely not just the flu. In a typical year, the flu in this country has a mortality rate of about one in a thousand. The overall death rate for this virus, by contrast, is as high as 3.4 percent. That’s thirty-four times deadlier. But even that number masks the true effect because the mortality isn’t distributed evenly. For those aged 70-79, the death rate is about 8 percent. For those over 80, it’s nearly 15 percent. Death rates are also higher for those with diabetes, respiratory ailments, or heart conditions. That’s a lot of people.
So what will things look like once the epidemic matures in America? For answers, consider Italy. Italy isn’t authoritarian, like China, and it’s not backward, like Iran. It is a modern, developed, Western country, in many ways like ours. As of tonight, the coronavirus has brought Italy to a standstill. Today, the prime minister suspended all travel throughout the country, unless it’s for work, health, or emergencies. All museums and archaeological sites are closed. All public gatherings have been banned. Sporting events are now canceled entirely, for the first time since World War II.
In effect, the entire country is locked down. Over the weekend, prisoners rioted, causing several deaths. Italy is now suffering almost 100 deaths a day from the virus. That’s far worse than here, but the only difference is likely time. Early evidence suggests it takes about six days for the number of coronavirus cases to double. If that trend holds here in the U.S., then in just a few weeks, we’ll be where Italy is now. In a few months, if nothing stops the virus, there will be millions of cases.
This is bad for more than simply physical health. The Dow Jones average fell more than 2,000 points today, a decline of more than seven and a half percent. It was the market’s worst day since the 2008 financial crisis, and its fourth-worst since the Great Depression. Grant Thornton, a major accounting firm, is predicting a global recession due to the epidemic and very low growth, if any here in the U.S. If a recession hits, it won’t be easy to fight. The usual stimulus efforts — tax cuts and lower rates — won’t reopen factories that have shut down to contain a virus. They won’t get people to eat at closed restaurants, shop in closed malls, or attend canceled sporting events. We’re going to have a demand problem, and that’s a big deal.
In other words, our country is likely to experience a painful period we are powerless to stop. None of this is justification to panic. In a genuine crisis, it’s more important than ever to be calm. But staying calm isn’t the same as remaining complacent. It doesn’t mean assuring people that everything will be fine. We don’t know that. Instead, it’s better, to tell the truth. That’s always the surest sign of strength.
As they level with us, our leaders ought to prepare the public for what comes next. If a recession is coming, we ought to be saving money for the possible impact. If travel restrictions are coming, we should know that, too. Already, the nonstop Acela train service between New York and Washington has been suspended. The Indian Wells tennis tournament in California, one of the largest in the world, has been canceled for this year. The March Madness basketball tournament is supposed to start in a couple of weeks. It might be held in front of empty stadiums, or postponed, or canceled as well. You may be given the option to work from home. Eventually, you may be ordered to do that.
We should also focus on preparing our health care system for the worst. The time of containing coronavirus with widespread testing and individual quarantines is over. There are too many cases here now. We can’t stop this epidemic. We can only limit the damage it does.
Now is also the time to start looking ahead to the future. Think about what it would mean to face a deadlier version of coronavirus. Would we be ready? Not now. We ought to be. One of the first things we must do is break our dependence on China for essential medical supplies.
Last week, China’s official news service published a piece gloating that the country has brought coronavirus under control. The story says the rest of the world should apologize for criticizing China over the virus, and then drops this unsubtle warning. Quote: “If China retaliates against the United States at this time, in addition to announcing a travel ban on the United States, it will also announce strategic control over medical products, and ban exports to the United States. If China announces that its drugs are for domestic use and bans exports, the United States will fall into the hell of a new coronavirus epidemic.” Unquote.
In other words, they’re threatening to kill us. And it’s not an empty threat. We really are that dependent on China, for masks and medical equipment and for basic medicines. It’s shocking to wake up one morning and find ourselves in this supine position. The people who made us this dependent on a hostile foreign power deserve to be punished. That won’t happen, of course, but we can at least try to fix the damage they caused. And there is a lot of it.
The Chinese coronavirus will get worse, its effects far more disruptive. That’s not a guess. It’s inevitable, no matter what they’re telling you. Let’s hope everyone stops lying about that, and soon.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor