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Washington Sketch: Elmo Has a Message About Swine Flu

The swine flu epidemic is likely to be a monster, so the government called in Elmo.
The swine flu epidemic is likely to be a monster, so the government called in Elmo. (By Ron Thomas -- Associated Press)
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"Oh, Elmo feels a real sneeze," the Muppet says in one spot.

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"Remember what we practiced," counsels Elmo's grown-up friend Gordon.

"Ah-choo," Elmo says into his elbow.

"Now, keep practicing," Gordon recommends, "and you'll stay happy and healthy, too."

This must be what the White House, in the "H1N1 National Preparedness and Response Overview" it issued Tuesday, meant when it said the Cabinet would "spare no effort in addressing this national security challenge." But other than the vaccine, the first doses of which should arrive in mid-October, the "response overview" included lots of talk about "coordinating" and "partnering" and "implementing" -- but no specific measures to fight the virus.

Obama had a similar lack of information to share when he arrived in the Rose Garden after the latest in a series of swine flu meetings. His aides may have realized he had nothing new to say, because they changed his appearance from an Oval Office "pool spray," where he would have faced questions, to a formal statement in the Rose Garden, where he could (and did) ignore shouted questions.

"We just had a good meeting," reported Obama, who assured the nation that "response plans have been put in place," and that a vaccine will arrive "soon."

But until then, the best the president could recommend was that you "stay home if you're sick" and keep your hands clean. "Take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy," he recommended.

For further information on that, please contact Secretary Elmo.


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