Stock markets around the world opened sharply lower Monday, with coronavirus fears and a turbulent oil market conspiring to prompt heavy sell-offs and a temporary halt in trading.
While the bottom fell out, President Donald Trump was busy ― on Twitter. Trump sent 13 tweets over a span of about three hours Monday morning, ranting about everything from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) comments last week about abortion to the state of the Democratic primaries.
He also pondered having “outmastered the deep state,” baselessly accused former President Barack Obama of being “the most corrupt” in history, and, for good measure, threw in a racial epithet along the way.
(At the same time, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham appeared on Fox News and accused politicians and the media of unnecessarily politicizing things to spread fear.)
A couple of hours in, Trump turned to the matters of the day: oil and the coronavirus.
First, the president hailed the oil sell-off as good news because consumers will pay less at the pump.
Then, in his last tweet of the morning, the president sought to downplay coronavirus fears by emphasizing that “life & the economy” don’t shut down for the seasonal flu each year.
“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” he tweeted. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
While the flu and coronavirus are caused by vaguely similar pathogens, COVID-19 ― the disease caused by the coronavirus that popped up in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 — is less understood by scientists at this point so its full risks are unknown.
We have a vaccine for influenza, and per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate in the U.S. of those who have been infected with the flu has been around 0.1% since 2010.
By comparison, there’s not currently a vaccine for COVID-19. While accurate mortality numbers for COVID-19 are harder to come by, data currently suggests they’re likely higher than for the flu ― potentially around 3%, according to the World Health Organization.
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