President Donald Trump was condemned this week for repeatedly using the term "Chinese virus" as a substitute for the coronavirus, or COVID-19. On Wednesday, a reporter at a press briefing asked him flat out why he was trying to switch to a new name for the virus so late in outbreak. The president said that he wanted "to be accurate."
President Trump has been commenting publicly on the coronavirus since January, a few weeks after the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China. He has occasionally used terms like "foreign virus" or "Chinese coronavirus," which have been denounced by health experts and other public officials. Recently, however, he has used the term "Chinese virus" several times on Twitter and in speeches. In a press conference on Wednesday, a reporter noted cases of bias against Asian-American people during the outbreak, and asked the president why he insisted on this term.
NEW: Trump was just asked why he insists on calling coronavirus the "Chinese virus," and here's his response
"It's not racist at all, no. It comes from China, that's why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate." pic.twitter.com/YVZPAow2Iz— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) 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 pointed out that the president would be more accurate if he called the virus by one of its scientific names. Many news outlets and officials are calling it simply "coronavirus," though according to the World Health Organization that is simply the name for the family of diseases it is a part of.
Scientists have given the disease a more precise name — COVID-19, short for "novel coronavirus disease," with "19" appended because it was first detected in the year 2019. This disease is actually the end result of a virus which scientists call SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is the contagious virus that causes COVID-19 in the same way that HIV causes AIDS, the WHO explains.
Many critics are now saying that the president's use of the term "Chinese virus" is an "racist dog whistle," meaning it implies a racist feeling or belief without stating it directly. They feel it is an attempt to guide people towards a belief that the Chinese are somehow responsible for the existence of COVID-19 without saying it outright.
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
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is clearly concerned about these issues as well, as it has a section on its website dedicated to "stigma related to COVID-19."
"Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards Chinese or other Asian Americans or people who were in quarantine," the section reads. "Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. ... Counter stigma by learning and sharing facts. Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop stigma."
Visit the CDC's website for the latest facts on the COVID-19 pandemic.