By Christopher Harper
Just after announcing a national emergency to combat the
N1H1 H1N1 virus in 2009, President Obama went out for a round of golf. Later, he appointed Elmo, the Sesame Street character, as the national spokesperson on how to combat the virus. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/01/AR2009090103135.html
All told, nearly 13,000 died from the virus. But President Obama got nary a mention of criticism during the year-long battle against the virus.
Contrast the media coverage of the 2009 outbreak with the press attacks on President Trump. DaTimes went so far as to call COVID-19 “the Trumpvirus.” See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/opinion/coronavirus-trump.html
After looking through the archives of DaTimes and DaPost, I found almost no serious analysis of what Obama did wrong in 2009.
In April 2009, the virus was a combination of bird, swine, and human flu viruses further combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus, leading to the term “swine flu.”
The Centers for Disease Control estimated the following illness and death rates from April 2009 to April 2010:
–CDC estimated that about 61 million people were infected.
–About 274,000 people ended up in the hospital.
–About 13,000 people died, mainly people over 65.
The leading suggestions from the Obama administration at the outset of the pandemic included washing hands and sneezing into one’s arm.
An internal report, which was completed six months after the outbreak of the virus, suggested that the president appoint one official to coordinate the efforts. See https://www.medicalcountermeasures.gov/BARDA/documents/2009%20pcast-h1n1.pdf
Trump made his vice president the coordinator almost immediately, although he faced widespread criticism for the choice.
As the crisis worsened, Obama and his team ramped up the production of a vaccine. By October, an estimated 120 million doses were supposed to be available. Only 15 million hit hospitals, with people waiting in long lines to get the vaccine.
In one of the rare criticisms of the Obama effort, DaPost wrote: “The federal government’s unprecedented campaign to protect the nation against the swine flu pandemic has gotten off to a sputtering start, frustrating parents, pregnant women, and others anxious to get immunized against the new virus.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/22/AR2009102204707.html
Compare the stumbling performance of the Obama team to the 2009 crisis with that of the Trump administration. Maybe the media should do the same, but that’s not going to happen because today’s journalists don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story.