Trump must stop winging it after panicking tri-state area over coronavirus lockdown

Apparently believing that New Yorkers didn’t have enough to worry about, President Trump tweeted early Saturday afternoon, “I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing “hot spots”, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.”

Residents went into panic mode. What does that mean? Will it restrict our movements further? Will we not be allowed to travel anywhere outside the state, even by car? For how long?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo — with whom Trump had not conferred — was forced to make his opposition known on television. “If you start walling off areas all across the country it would just be totally bizarre, counter-productive, anti-American, antisocial,” he said. “This is a civil war kind of discussion. I don’t believe that any administration could be serious about physical lockdowns of states.”

Finally, seven hours later, around 8:30 p.m., Trump tweeted that, instead, a strong travel advisory would be issued. “A quarantine will not be necessary. Full details will be released by CDC tonight. Thank you!”

An advisory is perfectly reasonable. States that don’t have many coronavirus cases should be wary of visitors from places like New York City, just as New Yorkers should think rationally about whether they should travel and how to limit their interactions. But why did that require an afternoon of confusion?

The most charitable view is that this is the president’s take on transparency. That he likes to throw ideas out there to see what the reaction might be, to workshop them. To get feedback from the brightest minds. And A-Rod. It’s happened many, many times during his term. Remember Greenland?

But the coronavirus pandemic requires a different approach. You can’t just throw out, “Hey, Easter would be nice” without asking if the task force he’s assembled agrees. You can’t — or at least shouldn’t — send the tri-state area into a tizzy while you mull about quarantining entire sections of the nation. By all means, ask the CDC and Vice President Mike Pence’s group if they think a state lockdown would be helpful. Don’t tweet it.

What President Trump has done right: Holding a daily briefing with experts at hand to show the administration is on top of the crisis. What he’s done wrong: Speaking off the top of his head.

Please, sir, we all have enough to worry about these days.

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