It was presumably a slip of the tongue by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin. Nonetheless, the statement did make some on the Twittersphere wonder.
On Friday, Mnuchin made a comment on CNBC that was captured in the video accompanying this Tweet:
As you can see, Mnuchin said, “we’re working on mass distribution of the virus,” with the “we” apparently referring to the Trump Administration.
Alright, the U.S. has already had at least 11,915,859 Covid-19 coronavirus cases, nearly one-fifth of the World’s cases, and at least 254,451 Covid-19-related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Both these numbers lead the World by far. Despite the fact that cases have been surging over the past month, the Trump Administration and the White House Coronavirus Task Force have not been holding regular press briefings to provide updates on how they are handling (or not handling) the situation.
So how did people in the Land O’ Twitter think this “mass distribution of the virus” is going? Well, there was this:
And some “fact-checking”:
Indeed, everyone and his or her mother should know that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) is not being well-controlled in the U.S. Speaking of your mother, this may have made some wonder whether Mnuchin was “all id” with what he said. For example:
Speaking of slips, on the same day, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “I’ve been loyal to the special interests,” during a press briefing:
Well, isn’t that special? Presumable Trump meant to say something else besides special interests. After all, the American people are not a “special interest.” Nevertheless, putting the two together:
OK, so gaffes, slip of the tongues, mispokenings, and whatever else you want to call mistakes of the mouth do occur. With political leaders giving so many speeches and briefings, they are bound to mess up here and there. Former Vice President Dan Quayle certainly had his share. Remember when he said that “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child,” which would be interesting, and “what a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is,” which is actually true. Former President George W. Bush once told us that “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” which is something that you shouldn’t do, especially when it’s turkey and mashed potatoes. The there was Bush saying that, “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” What he said is true. That rarely is the question. However, the following statement by Bush was hopefully not completely true: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
Verbal gaffes aren’t exclusive to any political party either. During a Democratic primary debate, President-elect Joe Biden did say that to address violence against women, “We have to just change the culture, period. And keep punching at it, and punching at it, and punching at it.” Maybe not the best choice of words. Biden has also said, “I refuse to accept the notion that the United States of America is not going to lead the world economically throughout the 20th century,” when that kind of already happened. So this is not to say that every single word of a political leader should be taken seriously.
Nonetheless, the presumed slip of the tongue by Mnuchin does help highlight an important concern: mass distribution of anything, whether it’s the virus, the vaccine, or Twinkies does depend on coordination at the national level or lack thereof. You can’t stop the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) by leaving it up to the states. That’s like telling players before a big football game, “OK, each of you do whatever you want to do.” The virus doesn’t respect state boundaries. The virus doesn’t say, “darn, forgot my EZ Pass, can’t cross that toll booth.”
Similarly, mass distribution of the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine, if and when it is available, will require national-level coordination. Can you imagine what will happen if it’s available in some locations but not others or if each state has a different way of making the vaccine available? This could lead to people questioning what’s going on, people traveling to other states to get the vaccine, and chaos. There could even be people trying to re-sell the vaccine or offering bogus replicas of the vaccine. Imagine commercials like “for a short time only, you can get this male enhancement pill and a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the same time. This way you can make it harder for you to get infected and, well you get the picture.”
Ultimately, transparency will be key too. It’s not enough to say that you are working on something. That could be like telling your significant other “I’m working on getting you to trust me. So please don’t ask me what I am doing right now. And if anyone in the middle of the night calls, it’s Jake from State Farm.” What is the plan to control the spread of the virus right now? What are the plans to distribute the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine? What still needs to be determined? How can the scientific and public health communities help?
You may have heard the phrase, “we’re all in this together,” so many times this year that you feel that you are on the set of the movie High School Musical. The phrase is correct no matter how well-fortified your mansion is with toilet paper. Therefore, there needs to be a coordinated response to the pandemic. And coordination will require open and clear communication. Otherwise, mass distribution of any vaccine could end up being a mass-ive failure.