Did the coronavirus scare start immediately after impeachment in a plan to upend U.S. President Donald Trump? No, that's not true: That is a theory being spread by conservatives, ignoring the fact the outbreak began in China in late 2019, and it led to the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency on January 30, 2020, before the final impeachment vote.
The Trump administration restricted travel from China the day after the WHO declaration, on January 31, 2020. By then, 213 people had died and more than 9,800 people had been infected worldwide. The virus has continued to spread rapidly across the world in the weeks since, with more than 125,000 cases reported worldwide, including more than 4,600 deaths, according to the WHO. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
The seriousness of the outbreak has not stopped those on social media coming up with their own theories. On the same day the WHO declared a pandemic, Facebook user "Upset Californian Conservative" published a post (archived here) on March 11, 2020, beginning with "Who else agrees?" It then said:
HAS ANYONE ELSE NOTICED THE COVID-19 SCARE STARTED IMMEDIATELY AFTER IMPEACHMENT FAILED?...ITS ALL PLANNED...
The claim is false.The facts are clear: The outbreak began before Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate on two articles - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - in early February. The virus also does not distinguish between countries, as is clear from the global scale of the pandemic that started in Wuhan, China. And Trump himself was set to announce a national emergency, according to Bloomberg News.
The "Upset Californian Conservative" user who posted the message has more than 30,000 followers. According to a pinned post, the page was created in March 2018 "by an incredibly UPSET and frustrated CALIFORNIAN CONSERVATIVE. It is a constitutional right to speak freely on fb or "any" other platform."
The political sentiment of the "fix is in for Trump" is gaining traction among many Republicans or other Trump supporters, partly fueled by Trump himself. As recently as Monday, March 9, of this week, the president slammed the "Fake News Media" for inflaming the coronavirus situation.
The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, "The risk is low to the average American."-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
A day later, the WHO issued a tweet of its own warning that "misinformation and rumors" can spread much more quickly than the virus.
Whenever there's an outbreak of a disease, misinformation and rumours can spread faster than the virus itself and it can be just as dangerous.-- World Health Organization Western Pacific (@WHOWPRO) March 10, 2020
Make sure you always #KnowTheFacts to protect yourself and your loved ones from #COVID19. #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/1xR5iYEK6Z
On Friday, March 13, 2020, the New York Times published an exclusive under the headline "The Worst-Case Estimate for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths" that said officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and epidemic experts from universities around the world met last month to discuss what might happen if the coronavirus took hold in the United States. The story noted the serious concern health officials had over the growing outbreak:
Between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the course of the epidemic, according to one projection. That could last months or even over a year, with infections concentrated in shorter periods, staggered across time in different communities, experts said. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die.
As of this writing, nearly 1,700 cases have been reported in the United States with 41 deaths, according to the CDC. Shortages of test kits have been reported across the nation - a problem the federal government's top infectious-disease doctor called a "failing" in testimony before Congress.
"The system is not really geared to what we need right now. That is a failing. It is a failing. Let's admit it." - Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases