Opportunity Cost

THROUGHOUT DONALD TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY, an ominous question has hung in the air: How would he handle a truly serious crisis? Now we know. The novel coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 200,000 people around the world to date and is spreading rapidly in the U.S. Experts project that COVID-19, the respiratory disease that coronavirus causes, could afflict millions worldwide and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. Faced with the most dangerous threat to American life since at least the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the 45th President made matters worse.

A few weeks after the outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in December, U.S. health officials warned Trump of the seriousness of the threat. But in his first public comments about the virus, on Jan. 22, Trump told the public he wasn’t worried. “Not at all,” he said. “We have it totally under control.” Throughout February, Trump dismissed Democrats’ alarm about the virus as their new “hoax,” blamed “the Democrat policy of open borders” for the pathogen’s spread and insisted that his Jan. 31 decision to restrict travel from China had contained the outbreak. By Feb. 29, officials reported the first coronavirus-related death of an American on U.S. soil.

As epidemiologists and infectious-disease experts begged Americans to self-quarantine and cancel social events, many of the President’s

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