Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox orders removal of Utah coronavirus tweet that criticized Trump’s ‘misinformation’

(Evan Vucci | AP file photo) Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, President Donald Trump, center, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar leave a briefing on the coronavirus at the National Institutes of Health, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Bethesda, Md.

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox ordered the state’s coronavirus response team to delete a tweet that accused President Donald Trump of spreading “misinformation” about the virus.

“I just learned of a tweet on this account that appeared political in nature,” Cox wrote late Thursday on the Twitter account of the Utah Coronavirus Task Force, which he heads. “We must do everything possible to avoid politicization of this issue and I asked the tweet be deleted. The White House has been a tremendous partner in our COVID-19 response and we will do everything possible to protect the health of Utahns.”

On Thursday morning, the task force said on its Twitter account Trump had “spread ... misinformation” when he suggested people could recover from COVID-19 while going to work.

“DO NOT go to work if you have symptoms that match COVID-19. Stay home to avoid making others sick,” the Task Force tweeted. “Even if you have very mild symptoms, going to work sick could be dangerous to others. Let’s work together to stop the spread of misinformation like what’s in this video.”

The state’s tweet included a recording of Trump saying: “We have thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better.”

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Trump made the remarks during a phone interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, which aired Wednesday night.

As critics decried the president’s comments, which contradict advice from the CDC, Trump responded in a tweet Thursday:

“I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work. This is just more Fake News and disinformation put out by the Democrats, in particular MSDNC. Comcast covers the CoronaVirus situation horribly, only looking to do harm to the incredible & successful effort being made!”

In the phone interview with Hannity, Trump also said he believed the 3.4% death rate reported for COVID-19 by the World Health Organization was “a false number” and that he had a “hunch” the death rate was far lower — “way under 1%.”

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert to head up the coronavirus task force, which is preparing for a potential outbreak.

Cox is a candidate for governor and now backs Trump for reelection — even though he has been openly critical of the president in the past. For example, he assailed the president for making “dangerous” and baseless allegations of voter fraud. He called Trump disingenuous and said he “represents the worst of what our great country stands for.” He earlier refused to vote for him.

Herbert said Thursday that he agreed with Trump that the symptoms of coronavirus are mild in most cases — but stressed that people should stay home if they feel unwell.

“I think what [Trump] is saying, and I concur, is that most people will have a mild form of coronavirus,” Herbert told reporters Thursday. For that reason, most people would be physically capable of going about their daily lives as normal, including showing up at work.

“But ... you also have the ability to spread the virus to somebody else,” Herbert said. “And so our counsel to everybody is, if you’re sick, stay home. Take an extra few days off, because you’re a carrier.”

Cox appears in a video the state tweeted explaining when and how Utahns can seek testing and treatment if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

So far, the state has not documented any cases of someone in Utah contracting the virus. As of Thursday, 17 Utahns deemed at risk had received tests, health officials said; 15 tested negative and two results were pending.