President Donald Trump was condemned Tuesday for suggesting that a wall along the southern U.S. border would in any way protect Americans from the coronavirus outbreak which has spread to more than 100 countries, infecting more than 750 people in the United States so far as testing continues to lag.
In response to a tweet posted by right-wing commentator Charlie Kirk saying "the U.S. stands a chance if we can control of our borders" and referring to the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, as the "China virus," the president tweeted, "we need the Wall more than ever!"
Going up fast. We need the Wall more than ever! https://t.co/7TxErJKAgT
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 10, 2020
"Walls are not going to keep [the virus] out," Dr. Celine Gounder, a clinical professor of infectious diseases at New York University, told HuffPost last month when the president first floated the idea of closing the southern border. "There's no point with approaching this as a borders issue. It's here."
A number of critics pointed out that the U.S. currently has far more cases of COVID-19 than Mexico, which Trump has since 2015 said must be separated from the U.S. by a wall in order to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country.
At least 755 people in the U.S. had been diagnosed with the coronavirus as of Tuesday, while only seven cases of the respiratory illness have been confirmed in Mexico.
FWIW, there are only 7 diagnosed cases in Mexico as of Tuesday morning, and 755 in the U.S. https://t.co/8UIi79F5SH
— Jasmine Aguilera (@Jas_Aguilera) March 10, 2020
Trump's tweet came days after former Obama White House national security official Colin Kahl wrote on social media that Trump should be expected "to pivot to exploiting fears about the virus to feed his nativist and protectionist case for walls, travel bans, tariffs, etc."
Much has been said about the political consequences of Trump’s continued bungling of #coronavirus. But we should also expect him to pivot to exploiting fears about the virus to feed his nativist & protectionist case for walls, travel bans, tariffs, etc. https://t.co/DJ1Kq4EDBn
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) March 5, 2020
The president's tweet demonstrated that Trump is "more concerned with his re-election" than public health, tweeted former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance.
Trump is using Coronavirus as a justification for building a wall on our southern border. His base should be insulted that he thinks he can manipulate them like this. He’s more concerned with his re-election than their safety. https://t.co/NtvdFioZkm
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) March 10, 2020
As Trump claimed closing borders is the key to protecting the U.S., where public health officials say the coronavirus is now infecting people via "community spread" rather than from people entering the country, the administration was under fire for overseeing a response to the outbreak in which the slow rate of testing Americans for the coronavirus has become "a debilitating weakness" in the effort to determine how far the disease has spread so officials can work to halt further transmission.
Fewer than 4,400 people in the U.S. had been tested for the coronavirus as of Monday, according to DefenseOne.
"By this point in its outbreak, South Korea had tested more than 100,000 people for the disease, and it was testing roughly 15,000 people every day," wrote Robinson Meyer. "The United Kingdom, where three people have died of COVID-19, has already tested more than 24,900 people."
"Jesus Christ, America, what are you doing?" tweeted Business Insider correspondent Rob Price of a graphic showing the CDC is now administering only five tests per one million people.
— Rob Price (@robaeprice) March 9, 2020
Officials in the U.K. and the Netherlands administered about 350 coronavirus tests per one million people. The countries have reported five and four deaths from the disease, respectively, while at least 26 people have now died in the U.S. from COVID-19.
Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard, told DefenseOne that not enough people are being tested for COVID-19 for health officials to accurately report that they know how many "new cases" there are in the United States.
"They should refer to them as 'newly discovered cases,' in order to remove the impression that the number of cases reported has any bearing on the actual number," Lipsitch told the outlet.
"Perhaps the wall is to protect Mexico?" tweeted Democratic activist Travis Akers.