Even as President Trump and his White House task force have shifted their tone to a more grave note in recent days, some Republicans continue to downplay the spread of the virus.
The stances vacillate somewhere between an adherence to harmful conspiracies about COVID-19 and a refusal to put outbreak preventions ahead of the economy.
Just in the last day or so, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has ignored calls from officials, as well as former governor and current Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), to close beaches, or at the very least, crack down on the number of people allowed to visit them. (On Thursday morning, DeSantis did appear to ramp up his messaging a bit, telling Fox News “the party is over in Florida” for spring breakers.)
On the other side of the country, a Republican lawmaker in Alaska told a gathering of a senior citizens to not take efforts to clamp-down the spread of the virus seriously. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) jokingly called the deadly disease a “beer virus” and encouraged constituents to “go forth with our everyday activities.”
And even prominent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told his local newspaper that the outbreak — which has killed more than 9,000 people around the globe — is “not a death sentence.”
You don’t need me to tell you that this rhetoric and inaction is dangerous. And it breaks with the messaging currently coming out of the White House, even if that messaging is only a few days old. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:
What The Investigations Team Is Watching
Josh Kovensky and Tierney Sneed are working on a story about the impact COVID-19 is having on the law that requires emergency room doctors to treat all patients who come through their doors.
What The Breaking News Team Is Watching
Our team is covering the COVID-19 task force news briefing in our liveblog here.
At least two members of Congress have now been diagnosed with the coronavirus — Reps. Ben McAdams (D-UT) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). Both announced their diagnosis in statements on Wednesday and said they would continue to work from home while quarantining. We anticipate they won’t be the last lawmakers to test positive for COVID-19 while Congress scrambles to pass a phase three spending bill to combat the outbreak. We’ll keep an eye on this.
11 a.m. ET: The White House COVID-19 Task Force holds another press briefing.
1:50 p.m. ET: Trump will head to the FEMA headquarters and host a teleconference with governors at 2 p.m. ET.
3:20 p.m. ET: Trump will return to the White House.