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OpinionColumnistsDan Raviv

Don't quarantine the truth about coronavirus

President Donald Trump speaks in an address to

President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus on Wednesday in Washington. Credit: AP/Doug Mills

We continue to suffer from a quarantine that fails to protect us from coronavirus.  That is because truth itself is being quarantined – kept behind a virtually impenetrable government wall by the president and his administration.  

Who knows whether President Donald Trump intended to lie about the disease? Maybe he never really listened to the briefings he received, so his rah-rah cheerleader nature led him to proclaim his own version of things – how coronavirus might to be gone within weeks; how U.S. labs could create a vaccine in a few months; and how he could try to make us believe that his government was doing a fantastic job bottling up the virus, simply by saying it was so.

When I heard that Trump would address the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night, I figured that he would stick to a carefully written script in that august setting.  Finally, he would read facts off a screen, instead of spit balling his fantasies, and we would know where things are really headed. 

Yet the 10-minute speech, aside from being delivered with all the humanity of a robot, avoided the ugly truth that our hardships and disruptions are going to get worse before they get better.  Trump didn’t set the record straight on shaking people’s hands: that he was wrong to keep doing it.

As part of my job covering news in Washington, I have had to listen to almost every speech and off-the-cuff verbal bombshell from the president. My duties include parsing poorly chosen words, and politely considering whether he really meant to say exactly what he said.

Never until this week did it make a personal difference to me. I plan to continue traveling, and I need to know how to avoid being forced into quarantine – but I feel surrounded by the word. An increasing number of friends tell me they are self-quarantined after returning from abroad, or after flying from the United States to the stringent anti-virus rules of Israel. Whether self-quarantine is more alarming or more reassuring than the now fashionable WFH – working from home – these apparently healthy individuals find it eerie to have been ordered to stay indoors and keep away from everyone else. 

Even for those merely suspected of possibly being exposed while on tour, it is deemed insufficient to avoid sneezing or coughing on people, or avoid being sneezed or coughed upon. Isn’t it enough to wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, or as an alternative self-sanitize with the alcohol of Purell? Do folks with no symptoms really have to stay indoors, like pariahs or lepers in our 21st century affluence?

I accept that the strictures are necessary, because the relentless advance of the highly contagious COVID-19 must be stopped by all imaginable blocking mechanisms.

We cannot afford to make whatever Italy’s mistakes were, the errors that triggered a mounting toll of virus sufferers and more patients dying than in any country outside of China. So I am willing to believe that crippling the travel industry and curtailing our enjoyment from sports will be worthwhile, as it would be were it to save even just one life.

I admit having a selfish motive in listening carefully to Trump’s words the other night.  Early in his speech he said: “We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”  My heart sank, because I have been planning a trip to London late this month – having bought some non-refundable seats for three hard-to-get plays – and those words made it seem like we wouldn’t be able to fly home.

Seconds later, the president said the United Kingdom will be exempt from the restrictions. Curtain up!  Tea and crumpets. Rarely have I been so pleased by something Trump said. I know, now I may be the one living in fantasy.  Will it really be safe to fly to Britain and crowd into theaters?  

Maybe I’m just stir-crazy after all these weeks quarantined from truth.

Dan Raviv of i24News is author of “Spies Against Armageddon.”