Empower Wisconsin | March 18, 2020
By John R. Lott Jr.
The debate over the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is remarkably devoid of hard data comparisons. With President Trump’s decision last week to expand travel restrictions to the European Union, it is time to evaluate the very different approaches to travel restrictions that the U.S. and the E.U. have taken.
The end of January seems long ago. Until Jan. 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) explicitly declined to classify the coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global emergency. It urged countries not to restrict travel or trade.
The WHO announcement on travel was partially in response to the U.S. government’s Jan. 27 recommendation that Americans “avoid all non-essential travel to China.” But the U.S. went still further. On Jan. 30, the State Department warned Americans to completely avoid traveling to China. On Jan. 31, President Trump suspended the entry of all non-U.S. citizens coming from China.
Only Israel and Australia imposed travel moratoriums as soon as the U.S. did. No European countries acted as quickly to suspend travel.
Italy and the Czech Republic now have restrictions on direct flights from China, and France has suspended issuing new visas to Chinese. But, as Trump noted on Wednesday night, other European Union countries had few travel restrictions in place, even by the end of February.
It isn’t clear how much of the lower U.S. rate can be attributed to the Trump administration’s quick actions and bucking of WHO recommendations regarding travel, but our overall policy seems to be working relatively well. Our infection and death rates seem to be much lower than those of most other large, similar countries.
Yet, the media immediately jumped on Trump when he imposed these travel restrictions. News outlets that critiqued Trump for overreacting are now the same ones claiming that he is not doing enough. Market Watch complained on February 3: “‘No Chinese allowed’: Racism and fear are now spreading along with the coronavirus.” If people had been worried about the appearance of racism, the U.S. coronavirus situation would now be much more grave.
Others condemned the U.S. for ignoring the WHO’s travel advice. A Foreign Policy article criticized the administration for having “sabotaged America’s coronavirus response” and acting in “clear defiance of WHO’s admonishment against restricting travel to and from China.”
Trump has been attacked by the media and former Vice President and leading Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden as “racist” for retweeting a reference to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” Given the virus originated in China, this seems like a simple factual reference to the origins of the virus. The Spanish Flu got its name after the country where it originated. Ebola was named after a river in Africa. The Zika virus name came from a forest in Africa. But no one accuses the media of being “racist” and anti-black every time they refer to the Ebola or Zika viruses.
Read more at Townhall
And listen to Vicki McKenna’s interview with John Lott on the Vicki McKenna Show on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA.