You might think Democrats and the media would have quickly realized that the rapid spread of coronavirus is an epidemiological event wholly indifferent to performative wokeness. But no.
Last week at a campaign stop in South Carolina, erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg quipped that Trump’s border wall would not stop the coronavirus because the disease “doesn’t respect borders.” Also last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren—who as of this writing hadn’t yet ended her bid for the nomination—introduced a bill to divert money from the president’s border wall to help fund the government’s coronavirus response.
As the Trump administration scrambled to respond to the fast-spreading virus, others chimed in along the same lines. Reacting to news that the administration was considering additional entry restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon tweeted, “There are 5x as many confirmed cases of the #coronavirus in Canada as Mexico. Why isn’t Donald Trump focused on our northern border? I’ll give you three guesses but you’ll only need one.” (In case you’re wondering, the answer Sen. Merkley is looking for is: Trump is racist.)
As irresponsible and unserious as such talk is right now, I have to say, contra Buttigieg, that although it’s true a border wall won’t stop the coronavirus, it might help stop people who have the coronavirus from entering the United States undetected, which is the entire purpose of imposing travel restrictions during a global pandemic.
It’s astounding that any of this even needs to be said when new cases of the disease are cropping up every day all over the world, along with growing numbers of coronavirus deaths in the United States (six as of this writing, all in Washington State). But we live in an idiotic age, when travel restrictions and border controls, even in the face of a deadly disease we know very little about, are denounced as racist and xenophobic by tech journalists, woke pundits, and Democratic presidential frontrunners alike.
The Coronavirus In Mexico Is Going to Be Very Bad
That being the case, I’m going to say this as plainly as I can: contra Merkley, there’s good reason to be more worried about the spread of the coronavirus in Mexico than in Canada, and contra Buttigieg and Warren, there’s good reason to tighten our southwest border now, before the virus becomes widespread south of the Rio Grande.
Consider the countries that have had the highest number of cases to date: China, Italy, and Iran. Each represents a different kind of regime, which has in turn affected official responses to the outbreaks. China has an authoritarian regime with a strong state apparatus, Iran has an authoritarian regime with a weak and corrupt state apparatus, and Italy has a democratic regime with a relatively strong state apparatus.
In China, communist party officials at first concealed the disease and cracked down on anyone, including doctors, who tried to sound the alarm. Once it got out of control, the government imposed extraordinarily harsh measures to reduce the spread of the disease, including mass quarantines and lockdowns of entire cities, which at the moment seem to be working. The number of new coronavirus cases in China has been reportedly dropping in recent days, with officials in Hubei province—the epicenter of the outbreak—on Monday reporting 125 new infections, continuing a steady decline in new cases over the past several days.
In Italy, which has the most number of coronavirus cases outside Asia, authorities have quarantined certain areas but have not been as secretive about the spread of the disease. Officials have reported more than 1,600 cases—more than double the number of cases reported on Friday—and more than 50 fatalities. Meanwhile, the nation’s public health system has tested many tens of thousands of people (for free), so many that it has sparked a national debate about how much testing is too much.
Then there’s Iran. We know less about the extent of the outbreak there than elsewhere, but we do know that it has hit the highest levels of the government. A top advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei died of the virus Monday following the deaths of two other Iranian leaders, a former ambassadors and a member of parliament.
As of Monday, seven government officials have been infected, including the vice president for women’s affairs, the highest-ranking woman in the regime. As of Monday, Iran had officially reported more than 1,500 cases and 66 confirmed fatalities. Some accounts on social media indicate the outbreak in Iran is out of control and that the government in Tehran is not only hiding the numbers of infected and deaths but has failed to take measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Coronavirus epidemy in Iran has past the crisis level. The country is imploding – law and order to disappear in the next days. A number of officials already died and mass infection among hospital staff and police forces reported.
— Ali (@aliostad) February 29, 2020
Now consider Mexico, a country with weak and corrupt government at all levels, no ability to enforce quarantines, and virtually no public health system. From the standpoint of dealing with something like coronavirus, Mexico is the worst of all possible combinations and presents ideal conditions for the spread of the disease.
This is a country, after all, where the central government has effectively ceded entire swaths of its territory to powerful drug cartels and gangs. The Mexican state, such as it is, has almost no ability to impose the rule of law, let alone combat or contain something like the coronavirus, and we should not expect any effective response to an outbreak there. As of Monday, there were five known cases in Mexico, and soon there will be more.
Under these circumstances, it’s not racist or xenophobic to consider measures to secure the southwest border. It’s prudent, and long overdue. In fact, it might already be too late.