Secretary of State Mike Pompeo won’t agree to a G-7 statement on the COVID-19 pandemic unless it includes a racist term for the virus, the German publication Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday.
Pompeo is allegedly refusing to sign on to the statement unless the group calls the new coronavirus the “Wuhan virus.” The virus was first identified after sickening people in the city of Wuhan in China in late 2019.
The other countries in the G-7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom — rejected the label because it “suggests the pandemic is a Chinese problem,” Der Spiegel reported.
When asked about the hold-up, Pompeo did not deny the report, according to The Hill, and continued to use the term “Wuhan virus.”
The secretary also used the term in several tweets from his official account on Wednesday.
“Global & US health experts say labeling a disease by geography is harmful,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, tweeted on Wednesday. “But it’s clear this administration is willing to endanger Asian Americans, hamper the global response, and hold back the economy just to direct anger and blame away from Trump.”
The name of a virus “may seem like a trivial issue to some, but disease names really do matter to the people who are directly affected,” Keiji Fukuda, then the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health security, said in 2015.
“We’ve seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities,” he added.
The New York Times reported this week that Asian Americans are being widely harassed and attacked as a result of the outbreak and the racist tropes associated with it.
“If they keep using these terms, the kids are going to pick it up,” Tony Du, a Maryland epidemiologist, told the Times. “They are going to call my 8-year-old son a Chinese virus. It’s serious.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned about the use of such language, saying that “stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease.”
The agency added that eliminating stigma “is important to making communities and community members resilient.”
Yet many Republicans continue to ignore the advice of health experts and push racist terminology.
On March 10, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy used the term “Chinese virus” in a tweet from his official account.
A day later, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) wrote an entire Facebook post defending his use of racist language regarding the coronavirus, claiming his critics should direct their energy elsewhere. “This is NOT what we should be spending our time on,” he wrote.
And on March 19, Trump himself went so far as to mark up a copy of his prepared remarks, changing the word “coronavirus” to “Chinese virus.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.