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Can science lead to dumb panic?

Debra Saunders on

WASHINGTON -- Can science lead to dumb panic? It's a question I've been asking as the stock market cannibalized itself in response to the coronavirus outbreak, academia shuttered classrooms and other interests did their utmost to convince their customers that they could get along just fine without them.

There is no question the coronavirus is a health threat to millions of Americans, especially the elderly and people with chronic illnesses. We have to protect them.

What's disconcerting, though, is how many enterprises with no reported cases in towns with no community spreading were so fearful that they shut everything down.

Even when nothing really happens, it's a huge story -- which is why many Americans hate the news media.

In February, the American Conservative Union held its Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. After the event, Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union that sponsors CPAC, learned that he had direct contact with an individual who at the time did not know he was infected.

Because Schlapp shook hands with President Donald Trump on Leap Day, there is a lot of speculation about the risk to the president. Ditto Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who also spoke at CPAC.

 

It didn't help that two GOP congressmen who attended CPAC events with the COVID-19 carrier then traveled with Trump over the weekend.

After learning about the case on March 7, Schlapp decided to work at home for the time left in the recommended 14-day isolation period. According to ACU, he's feeling fine.

As for CPAC, "We are getting hammered," ACU communications director Ian Walters told me. One individual had the virus and didn't know it. They know of no confirmation that any other attendee contracted the virus at CPAC.

They probably got more grief than a university that closed its doors even though it had experienced no known cases or community spreading.

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