— President Trump, at a campaign rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 28, 2020
“Going up fast. We need the Wall more than ever!”
— Trump, in a tweet, March 10, 2020
Trump is using the covid-19 outbreak to justify his push for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, even though the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public-health experts say they haven’t seen evidence it can stop the virus from spreading.
The president has been a frequent source of misinformation on the coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared a global pandemic. And he regularly makes false and misleading claims about immigration and the wall. The disease is already in the United States, and experts say containment measures are needed inside the country at this stage.
Trump claimed twice that a wall along the southern border would help mitigate the coronavirus from spreading in the United States, first at a campaign rally and then in a tweet quoting a right-wing activist, who wrote: “Now, more than ever, we need the wall. With China Virus spreading across the globe, the US stands a chance if we can control of our borders.”
But none of the coronavirus cases reported in the United States have been linked to people who entered through the U.S.-Mexico border. According to U.S. officials and experts, travelers who arrived on airplanes and cruise ships contracted the virus overseas and began to spread it after entering the country. On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced a ban on foreign travelers from most of Europe for 30 days, following previous restrictions on travel from China and Iran.
Hours after Trump’s tweet, Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) asked at a House hearing whether “structural barriers at our border would be of any use in mitigating the outbreak of this virus.”
“Not that I’ve seen,” CDC Director Robert Redfield responded.
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declined to comment and deferred to the White House “for clarification or further explanation” of Trump’s tweets. White House officials did not respond to our query.
As of Wednesday, the United States had recorded more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus; Canada had nearly 100 and Mexico eight. Public-health experts say Trump’s claim is off is because the coronavirus has already entered the United States.
“The virus originated in China and was never coming from Mexico. And now, it’s already here,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The real threat at the moment is spread in detention centers where the migrants are at risk from contracting the disease here.”
He said CBP officials should implement infection-control measures at the border and added “the agency has yet to implement influenza vaccination, despite three deaths of kids in part from influenza last year and despite the recommendation to vaccinate from CDC.”
The Washington Post reported “the best way to prevent a catastrophic explosion of cases in the next few weeks, many experts think, is to break potential chains of transmission by preventing infected people from coming in close contact with healthy ones, whether it means canceling conferences or relying on individual decisions to avoid crowded public transportation or postpone weddings.”
The Pinocchio Test
Trump earns Four Pinocchios once again for an inflammatory claim about people arriving at the southern border and spreading misinformation on a public-health concern.
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