ED HENRY (CO-ANCHOR): As we learn more about COVID-19, we're also finding out more about how Americans are handling the government response. Our next guest writing in The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. Is willing to shut down for three months, but that's about it.” Dan Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and a Fox News contributor. Dan, good morning.
DAN HENNINGER (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Hi there, Ed. Good to be with you.
HENRY: We have seen Gov. Cuomo say none of the models have really worked, none of them were right. Your column this morning, “Coronavirus lesson #1, the U.S. is willing to shut down,” as I said, but you say, “Public health officials have performed well, They need now to get past the blunt instrument of expecting compliance with protocols based on minimized social interaction, or risk the erosion of their credibility.” What's your point?
HENNINGER: Well, the title of my column was, “After the COVID Apocalypse.” And, you know, let's talk about those projections that Gov. Cuomo was mentioning. Back in early March, they were projecting the possibility of 2 million deaths in the United States, all right, an extraorinary number. As a result of that threat, and the fact that people were indeed dying in Seattle and New York, the economy of the United States — all 50 states shut down their economies. They did so because of the scale of the threat. In the three months since, we have had the economy, the 23 or so — $23 trillion, $21 trillion American economy — shut down for three months.
And yet, the effect, the experience of COVID across the United States has been really been quite uneven. Some of the biggest states, like Texas, Florida, and indeed California outside of Los Angeles, have not had the incidence of COVID that you had in New York or New Jersey. And so, it is natural to me that you have people in states like that saying, “It is time for us to start reopening our small businesses, we have put up with it for three months, that is all we are going to do.” And I think the public health authorities have to recognize the realities that COVID has not been experienced in the same way by everyone in this country.
HENRY: Joe Biden made some comments yesterday, about us reaching this milestone of 100,000 deaths. Let's play that clip, and give you a chance to respond.
JOE BIDEN (DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE): This is a fateful milestone, we should've never reached. It could've been avoided. According to a study done by Columbia University, if the administration had acted just one week earlier to implement social distancing … as many as 36,000 of these deaths might been averted.
HENRY: So, he's citing a Columbia University study — as we just noted, whether it's that one, the University of Washington predictions, so many of them have been wrong. So, do you think voters are going to appreciate that? Or are they going to say, “Why are you second-guessing so much?”
HENNINGER: I think the latter. I don't think that voters are going to want to get into a blame game — wehther it's President Trump making the call in March, or indeed Gov. Cuomo in New York. There have been estimates that if Gov. Cuomo had made the call two weeks earlier, deaths in New York would've been cut by 50%. But these are very tough calls that these officials were making back then, and I'm not going to second-guess them.
But I think the reality we have to come to grips with is, yes, we have crossed that awful 100,000-death milestone, but the effect of it has not been nearly as devastating outside of maybe 11 states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, seven or eight others. It has not been nearly as devastating in the rest of the country. And so, the issue before us right now is whether the rest of the country can in fact begin to re-normalize their lives and their livelihoods.
HENRY: Near the beginning of this crisis, a very wise man wrote — I looked it up, it was March 25th — quote, “Rallying a nation is what gets presidents remembered.” You probably remember that wise man — being you. How has the president done, how has he met that test?
HENNINGER: Well, I think he has tried very hard. He's been very positive, he has probably been guilty of overstatement at times. But you know, I think the federal response by and large — the CDC and infectious disease people, the Food and Drug Administration — they have pushed very hard, I think, over the past few months to try to get medications to people, to get vaccines, trials up and running quickly. And by and large I think they have performed very well — dealing, let's not forget, with a virus whose reality, whose science is not well understood. This has been an enormous work in progress for the scientists and the people trying to run our response to it. So, I think the president by and large deserves pretty strong marks.