Remember This Photo

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz took to the House floor on Wednesday to vote for the $8.3 billion coronavirus appropriations bill while wearing a gas mask. Gaetz appeared to be making fun of the crisis, even tweeting out a photo of himself in the mask. Whatever you do, remember this photo. Because it’s absolutely vital that politicians like Gaetz be held accountable when this crisis subsides.

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As of this morning, at least 159 Americans have been infected and 11 have died in Washington and California, with many more cases in the U.S. expected over the coming weeks. Over 95,000 people have contracted the virus around the world, and more than 3,200 have died. The fact that Gaetz is poking fun at this crisis shows just how unprepared the U.S. government is for the weeks and months ahead.

“I voted for the Coronavirus legislation because we must have resources now to prevent further spread. But I didn’t feel good about it,” Gaetz said on Twitter, explaining that politicians should have cut spending elsewhere to pay for the emergency bill.

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“The next generation will have to pay for their own pandemics....and ours too...with interest,” Gaetz tweeted, like the callous asshole that he clearly is.

Illustration for article titled Remember This Photo
Screenshot: Wayback Machine

[Update, March 13, 2020: This tweet of Rep. Gaetz in the U.S. House, which was previously embedded in this article, was deleted from Twitter, but is still available via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.]

Around the world, we know that the coronavirus fatality rate is highest in elderly people, with people over the age of 60 the most likely to die. And while Gaetz is 37 years old, his state of Florida is described as the “grayest state in the nation,” which is a polite way of saying it has the most old people.

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Florida has over 3,000 assisted living facilities and roughly 700 nursing homes, according to the Tampa Bay Times. And if the news out of Washington is any indication, those nursing homes are perhaps the most dangerous places to be right now. The first two deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. on February 24 and 26 were both patients at the LifeCare Center in Kirkland, Washington and six of the country’s 11 deaths are directly tied to the nursing home.

Florida has three confirmed cases of the virus so far, though it has only conducted 28 tests, as of 6:00 pm last night. Some elderly people in Florida are going to die because Matt Gaetz is making them think there’s nothing to worry about.

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And it’s not just Gaetz. If you’ve consumed any conservative media in the U.S. over the past week, you’ve being bombarded by bizarre messages about how the new coronavirus is nothing you need to prepare for. President Donald Trump previously used the word “hoax” to describe the response of Democrats to the virus, and last week insisted that infections could soon drop “to zero.”

Yesterday, talking head Jim Cramer said on CNBC that the death toll in the U.S. wouldn’t be that bad because the U.S. health care system is far superior to other countries. Cramer singled out Italy, which has experienced one of the worst outbreaks outside of China, with over 3,000 cases and 107 deaths.

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“In any pandemic of any major proportion, including the 1958 incredible flu season, there’s always a number of people who die overseas, and the public health system is just so poor overseas,” Cramer said.

“Obviously, it’s very bad in Italy,” Cramer added, something that’s objectively false. Italy has a world-class healthcare system and consistently ranks higher than the U.S. overall, according to the World Health Organization.

On Monday, Dr. Drew Pinsky appeared on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show and said that the media coverage of the virus was worse than the virus itself.

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“Essentially the entire problem we’re having is due to panic, not the virus. I was saying this six weeks ago. We have six deaths from the coronavirus, 18,000 deaths from the flu,” Pinsky said, while insisting that the “fatality rate is going to drop.”

The fatality rate for COVID-19 is actually much higher than the flu, according to the latest World Health Organization statistics. Ingraham then laughed about people wearing facemasks on airplanes, leading Pinsky to shout at the camera.

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“It’s panic. It’s panic. That is panic. That is people engaged in panic behavior,” Pinsky said while clapping his hands together. “And that is what concerns me. It is a press-induced panic, that will have real consequences. It will not be the virus.”

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also appeared at CPAC on February 28 to assure Americans that the federal government has everything under control. Mulvaney said that the U.S. is much more prepared than Europe for this crisis because America doesn’t have socialized medicine.

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“We know how to do this. You do look at some of the European countries, and we sort of sit back and go...if you’re already waiting in line, five weeks or six weeks for something, and now a couple hundred people get in front of you in line or a thousand people get in line for coronavirus, what does it do to your healthcare system?” Mulvaney said.

“They’re already strained, because socialized medicine does not work, and it especially doesn’t work in crises like this.”

Meanwhile, we don’t actually know how bad the coronavirus crisis might be in the U.S. because the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out faulty tests in the first week of February. The Trump regime promises that usable tests are “in the mail” as Vice President Mike Pence recently put it, but we’ve essentially lost six weeks of preparation time. Most Americans probably think that widespread testing is happening by now, but that’s simply not the case.

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Just 24 people have been tested for coronavirus in New York City, as of 11:00 am yesterday. The entire state of Colorado has conducted just 58 tests since the outbreak began. Vermont has tested three people. Iowa has tested eight people.

And if there are any lessons to be learned from the rest of the world, it’s that hospitals in the U.S. are going to be overwhelmed with patients soon. South Korea has run out of available hospital beds for thousands of coronavirus patients, according to new reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. Currently, 2,300 patients in Daegu, South Korea are being seen in facilities that are not hospitals because proper health care settings don’t have enough beds. And that should really terrify the rest of the world, especially Americans who know how long wait times at the ER can be these days.

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No one knows for certain what’s going to happen in the coming weeks, but all we can do is look at what’s happening in other countries. If Italy, South Korea, and China are any guide, politicians in the U.S. need to start taking this thing very seriously. China has built more than 19 makeshift hospitals with over 30,000 beds to deal with the influx of cases. Meanwhile, the president is telling people that it’s not going to be that bad.

President Trump called into Sean Hannity’s show last night, said the virus fatality rate wasn’t worse than the flu, and suggested that people without severe illness could go to work, something that health experts have said people should not do.

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What an absolute disaster.

All we can do at this point, aside from making sure our elderly family members and neighbors have the food and supplies they need to stay isolated, is remember what’s being said now. With any luck, guys like Matt Gaetz and Donald Trump will eventually face serious repercussions for the irresponsible things they’re saying.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

I’ll probably be hung for this, but the panic is absolutely worse than the disease. As far as global pandemics go, this is VERY mild. Yes, the fatality rate is slightly higher than the flu (It was 1.5% - 2% last I looked, which is slightly worse than the 1% of the flu); but the media is ABSOLUTELY pushing the panic mode (Perfect example, “TWICE AS DEADLY AS THE FLU!!” which is technically correct, but presented in an absolutely loaded manner). There are a few standouts that are simply keeping the public informed, and passing along simple human tips (wash your damn hands). Then you’ve got others that are using the most sensational terms to “report” on what’s going on with tactics to try and trap you into the 24 hour news cycle. Damn the logistical consequences that it causes. No Masks for those who actually need it them? No more surgical gloves? How many people are actually going to die indirectly because of the fallout of this pushed panic?

Then of course because it’s 2018 and this is the US it has to start lining up along political lines. Heavy left leaning “sources” are pushing the “MEGA ULTRA DEADLY VIRUS” line as hard as possible to hammer the Republican setup and response (which should be hammered). Basically, they’re trying to use sensationalism as a Tony Hawk style combo multiplier for their political “win”.

Of course, the right is basically burying their heads in the sand; which honestly is probably their best tactical response at this point. The virus is indeed spreading and killing people, but it’s not going to get to the level that the sensationalism is seemingly trying to convince people it will.

Personally, I’ve had to try to dial my wife back because she’s bought into the panic. She’s already tried to get masks, gloves, tons of sanitizer, and calling off plans because of this and it’s maddening. I’ve basically had to try and do damage control against the media empires trying to hell her that this is the harbinger of the apocolypse, and it’s friggin exhausting.