Columbia University virologist explains why the US government's coronavirus response is lacking the appropriate 'level of concern'

Columbia University virologist explains why the US government's coronavirus response is lacking the appropriate 'level of concern'
Image via Screengrab.

The global death toll from coronavirus has surpassed 3000, including at least five deaths in Washington State — where the disease appears to have been circulating undetected for weeks. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York City, discussed the Trump Administration’s coronavirus response and offered some tips on dealing with the disease in a Q&A interview with Rolling Stone.


During the interview, Rasmussen was critical of the travel restrictions the Trump Administration has implemented in response to coronavirus.

“Our travel restrictions have not been implemented sensibly,” Rasmussen told Rolling Stone. “I disagree strongly with President Trump’s statement the other day that they, in fact, (have) worked. There’s no reason to expect that allowing U.S. citizens to come in, as opposed to foreign nationals from China, would not bring the virus in. I mean, the virus doesn’t care what passport you’re carrying. It was not an effective way to prevent the spread.”

Overall, Rasmussen is critical of the Trump Administration’s coronavirus response.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in the U.S. government’s response,” Rasmussen told Rolling Stone. “It’s really dangerous. The way that that President Trump is focusing on the stock market, tax cuts or tariffs, or whatever, is missing the level of concern that we should have. It has two effects. It seems like a lot of people are either like, ‘Who cares?’ Or they’re, ‘Let’s start stocking my survival bunker.’ Neither of those extremes are good.”

In order to “minimize the spread” of coronavirus in the U.S., Rasmussen stressed, the U.S. should be “making sure that our healthcare systems are prepared” — and Americans can “minimize our exposure risk” by not “overwhelming” those systems.

According to Rasmussen, it’s important to remember that a “respiratory infection” isn’t necessarily coronavirus.

“It’s still flu season,” Rasmussen noted. “I would treat this (the) same way we would treat the flu. Don’t freak out.”

Health officials have estimated the death rate from coronavirus to be around 2%, but Rasmussen suspects that it could be “much lower if there’s a bunch of mild cases that we’re not being able to test for.”

Rasmussen noted that while “restrictions on mass gatherings” can be reasonable, it is unrealistic to “tell the whole world to stay home.”

“We need essential services,” Rasmussen told Rolling Stone. “So I think that a much better strategy is that we should make sure that people are taking the precautions they need to protect themselves…. There is a limit, practically, to what we can do in terms of these large-scale lockdowns and cancelling of events and closing down schools and so forth.”

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.