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Media Coronavirus Reporting: Groundhog Day Meets Friday The 13th

Everyone loves the classic Bill Murray-Harold Ramis movie: cynical, self-centered Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Collins repeatedly relives Feb. 2 and the kitschy celebration in sleepy Punxsutawney.

But what if instead of another 24 hours stuck in rural Pennsylvania, each new dawn involves rediscovering the horrors of Camp Crystal Lake, with goalie-masked, machete-wielding mass-murderer Jason Voorhees waiting to slaughter another random victim – potentially, you.

Welcome to the media coverage of the coronavirus: Groundhog Day Meets Friday the 13th.

Even weeks into the epidemic, you can turn on the TV, go online, pick up a newspaper, endure the constant cascade of email news alerts – every few minutes brings a chilling, and ultimately numbing and dispiriting recital of massive body counts, reports of dead celebrities or medical workers, and most frightening, parades of stories of young healthy people, maybe even entire families, struck down out of the blue. Asymptomatic people with deadly damage to organs. Even breathless reports that someone has simply contracted the virus on a ship, or in a prison, or in a store, or in a business.

No matter who you are, how fit or strong, or what age, Jason is coming for you in the form of COVID-19 – when and where you least expect it, and for no reason at all. Every second of every day in every corner of America, he’s in the store, the workplace, your favorite restaurant, your apartment building, even at the park or out on the beach – lurking in the shadows, waiting to descend and take you down.

You must find a place to hide, cover up, save yourself and your loved ones. And you may never be free to go out in the open again – at least without a mask.

Never mind that as more data slowly trickles in, it continues to confirm that the virus is primarily dangerous to older and sicker sub-populations. South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel reported last week that the average age of those dying in that region is 74, and that 87% of people succumbing in Broward County, some 95% in Miami-Dade and similar numbers in Palm Beach were “already battling other chronic diseases.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson relayed Monday night that of a total of 6,182 people who had died in New York City, just 26 between the ages of 18 and 44 suffered no underlying condition. Even of fatalities over 75, only 25 had no such health issue. Carlson cited an analysis by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson that more people over 100 – an age segment which represents some 0.02% of the population – had died of the virus than people under 30 (close to 40%), and another study revealing that sheltering among family may be more deadly than venturing out.

If the vast majority of the public is not in danger of death or even serious harm, why the ceaseless, day-by-day, minute-by-minute fearmongering? Two objectives are foremost.

The first is to keep you glued to your TV, phone and computer screens for more “information” –  i.e., higher ratings and rankings. Nothing like imminent, personal death or destruction to capture one’s interest.

But the even bigger reason is to help Big Government capitalize on the virus to accelerate the inexorable advance of the progressive agenda: to accrue more power on the part of government – and greater dependency on yours.

With cowed, sheepishly obedient Americans eagerly awaiting stimulus checks even as they piteously hope for government permission to restart their businesses or get back to work. And suddenly impoverished families waiting in their cars for hours for food handouts (though they can’t spend an hour in them for church services) even as farmers plow under fresh produce and pour millions of gallons of milk down the drain.

Never has the media, in the guise of public service, inflicted such a disservice in pursuit of its own selfish interests and those of the totalitarian Left. And in coming days, we can only expect the nonstop inciting of anxiety to get more intense.

Why? Because of still tentative discussions on how to reintroduce some element of normalcy. As plans emerge to gradually let you out of your cages, allow businesses, stores and recreational areas to reopen, and breathe some life back into an economy on life support, we can anticipate even more scrounging for alarming revelations and apocalyptic projections, along with relentless second-guessing.

In fact, bingo! – what should appear, right on cue, but a poll finding 81% of a Stockholm-syndromed public believes we “should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy.”

Wake up! The media must stop it – now. And replace the ceaseless horror show that has passed for morning, daytime and evening news with balanced reporting that reassures the public of the actual, relatively minor risk most face and allows some reasoned assessment of loosening Big Government’s death grip.

No one’s asking for “Mary Poppins” here, just perspective. Because if the steady diet of terror and panic isn’t rolled back soon, America may be hiding in the shed for good.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at


  • Since you are using movie analogies, you might consider that almost all of the world-nearly-ends movies show a few people venturing out from their shelter while others look on – at first in horror and then wonderment. Finally the herd moves out into the daylight and goes on about their lives. I don’t know who this 81% is that thinks we should continue in our current state.

    There was, I think, good reason for us to reduce personal contacts initially. We needed to get our medical equipment and supplies ramped up to deal with the problem.

    We have that now.

    We also have a treatment – the combination of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and Zinc has been shown to be an effective treatment, even for the elderly. (Please don’t give me a lecture on it hasn’t been proven to cure Wuhan Virus. Nobody should care. People who receive the treatment are able to recover and they don’t take up excessive time in hospital beds!) So we have a method for getting nearly all people infected back on their feet in short order. We have more ventilators, masks, etc. than we will need.

    Social distancing now is not only a waste of time. It is counterproductive.

    Do you really know anyone who is living in fear of the Wuhan Virus? I pity them.

    • Many. Especially my six-year-old granddaughter who is unnecessarily scared stiff to leave the apartment.

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