President Donald Trump came under fire again on Wednesday morning for referring to COVID-19, the pandemic strain of coronavirus, as "the Chinese virus." The president switched from using more widely-recognized terms to "the Chinese virus" this week, and reporters took notice. On Wednesday, social media was up in arms about the renaming.
Trump has been discussing the coronavirus on camera since January, shortly after it was first discovered in Wuhan, China. The virus spread around the globe quickly, however, and was soon as dangerous in countries like Italy as it was in the country where it was first detected. It was not until this week that the president began using the term "Chinese virus" wherever he could, and many thought it was a dangerous switch to make.
REPORTER: Why do you keep calling the coronavirus the "Chinese Virus"? There are reports of violence against Asian-Americans.
TRUMP: "It comes from China. That's why." pic.twitter.com/rBXUVDHIcS— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 18, 2020
In press coverage, the virus has generally been referred to as simply the coronavirus. According to a report by the World Health Organization, coronavirus is the name for the family of diseases that this outbreak comes from. This strain of it in particular is called COVID-19 — named because it is a novel coronavirus disease first discovered in 2019.
To be even more precise, the virus that is spreading is called SARS-CoV-2 by scientists — short for "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2." The virus causes the disease, in the same way that HIV causes AIDS, the WHO explains.
Still, on Wednesday the president continued to us the term "Chinese virus" on Twitter and in a press conference. When asked why he was suddenly switching to that name by a reporter, he said that he wanted "to be accurate."
I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the “borders” from China - against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
"'Cause it comes from China. It's not racist at all, no. It comes from China, that's why. I want to be accurate," the president said.
Many people online were not convinced, arguing that accuracy was not the president's primary goal, and that if it was he would have used names like COVID-19 or even SARS-CoV-2. Here is a look at how people are reacting to the term "Chinese virus."
He is going to keep calling the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” until it becomes an acceptable term for all Americans. When an Asian American schoolgirl sneezes because of an allergy, all the kids will bully her for having the Chinese Virus. We’ll be subjected to hate crimes too.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) March 18, 2020
Many people expressed worries about how the term "Chinese virus" would incite contempt, bias or even violence against Asian-Americans. Some cited anecdotes of experience racism already, and said that the president was making "scapegoats" out of Chinese and Asian-Americans.
The entire Republican Party owns this response, not just Trump. We should call it the #RepublicanPandemic— Mitch McConnells’ Ark (@NickWohlleb) March 18, 2020
Others responded to President Trump's new term with new terms of their own, including "Trump Pandemic." They argued that it was the president's fault that the virus had reached these heights, and it should carry his name, if any.
.@RichardEngel: "This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats. This is a bat virus, not a China virus. It doesn't speak Chinese. It doesn't target Chinese people. It targets human beings who happen to touch their eyes, nose or mouth." #AMRstaff— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 18, 2020
Many people pointed out other alternate names for COVID-19 that were equally as logical as "Chinese virus," including "bat virus" or "seafood virus," arguing that it may have started with those sources.
Even in a time of extreme crisis, trump can't control his impulse for using the dog whistle branding of "The Chinese Virus," instead of the widely-used term COVID19.
"Because it comes from CHY-NA."
He is the WORST "human." pic.twitter.com/fNrIu2trt6— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) March 18, 2020
Many users accused President Trump of using the term "Chinese virus" as a racist "dog whistle" — meaning it is a way of relaying a racist feeling or ideology without endorsing it outright.
FFS Really gotta stop calling it the “Chinese Virus”— William Jackson Harper (@dubjackharper) March 18, 2020
Whatever the reasons or justifications, there were lots of people online that just wanted the president to stop referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus." They argued against even debating the topic, as it only served as a distraction.
There is nothing to be gained at this point from focusing on China. The virus is here. It's now as American as the air you breathe. And calling it the "Chinese virus" fuels racism, as Americans bearing the brunt of this racism can attest. Trump's dog whistling is intentional. https://t.co/KWe2dKOADL— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) March 18, 2020
Others added that there was no point in adopting a new name for COVID-19 at this point, for any reason. With official names already in circulation, they thought that the president had no justification for using any other name, regardless of his intentions.
CDC Weighs In
The CDC Director has agreed that it is "absolutely wrong & inappropriate" to use labels like "Chinese coronavirus.” Let’s all take his advice. This is not the time for public officials to be creating divisions between Americans. We must all work together to beat this virus.— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) March 18, 2020
Finally, many people pointed out that medical experts and leaders have condemned the term "Chinese virus," including the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield. According to a report by NBC News, Redfield said that it was "absolutely wrong and inappropriate" to refer to COVID-19 this way.