Vice President Joe Biden on Flu: Gaffe or Good Advice?

Now suddenly honesty is a gaffe ["Swine Flu and Joe Biden's Gaffes: Might the Vice President Have a Point?" usnews.com]?

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Now suddenly honesty is a gaffe ["Swine Flu and Joe Biden's Gaffes: Might the Vice President Have a Point?" usnews.com]? It seems obvious that besides washing your hands, the next best way to stay healthy is avoiding enclosed spaces such as subways, airplanes, buses, malls, etc. (when we had a newborn during flu season our pediatrician recommended that). But discouraging these things would have dire consequences for the travel industry and our ailing economy as a whole. Thank you Joe for not telling your family one thing and the American people another. We complain that politicians are distrustful yet when one is candid about the advice he gave his family look what happens. Use your head, do you really want to sit next to someone who is coughing and sneezing and incubating the virus on an airplane? The government seems to be worried about people in close spaces since over 300 U.S. schools have closed indefinitely to try to limit the spread of the virus.

Comment by T. Barnes of TX

I have been a nurse for 25 years and I would not get on any airplane right now, nor would I let one of my family members. Thank God he is speaking the truth—you go Joe. Anyone who puts their financial gain (airline industry) over public health is wrong!

Comment by Kelli Jenkins of FL

It's true that Vice President Biden's comments weren't as immoderate as they're being portrayed, but he still broadened his answer and, in fact, advised everyone to stay out of confined spaces and not to ride subways (as a New Yorker, I suppose I could take a bus, but that's a confined space, too). If we avoided confined spaces every time there was a threat of catching a virus, we'd all have to stay permanently in solitary confinement. And as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out this morning, so far all of the cases of H1N1 in the United States have been mild, with symptoms abating after a few days. Fomenting panic when, so far, none is warranted is irresponsible, and the vice president might consider getting a bit more media training before giving any more interviews.

Comment by Bret Thorn of NY

Biden was on all three major networks responding to a flurry of questions raised by the shows' hosts. He did an excellent job on all fronts. The media picked up on one sound bite and as usual, did not try to provide Biden's remarks in the proper context. Matt Lauer was trying to pin the VP down on whether or not the president should close the borders with Mexico and asked Biden if he'd allow his family to travel to Mexico at the moment. Biden, being the astute politician that he is, did not want to be drawn into a situation where he has to contradict or second-guess the president and provided a fairly innocuous answer to the question to by stating that he'd advise his family not to travel at all. The media is now engaging in the sort of gotcha reporting, which upsets and disappoints people who prefer a deeper distillation of important issues rather than this sort of unprofessional and pedestrian attempt at making news.

Comment by Samus O'Cuan of MA

So, what are the CDC and World Health Organization employees telling their families? Let's be honest, as V.P. Biden was, what do you do to minimize your risk and more importantly your family's risk? Stay away from confined spaces, and wash your hands! Give people some credit—it was refreshing to hear some honest responses, not concerned with the economic impact but with the well being of our fellow man. I for one do not consider these remarks as "fomenting panic," the choice is still mine to travel or not, but it was great to hear someone tell the truth about what they would tell their family. Bravo, Joe!

Comment by D. Estevez of FL

Not only are you the second highest elected official in the USA but you are definitely not the Surgeon General. Try to stop being crazy Uncle Joe for four years (at least in public) and try to do your best, leading 300 million people. The vast majority of us listen intently and act upon the words which come out of the White House. Now I am not one of these people because I realize that it is now amateur hour in the White House, but when it comes to possibly creating widespread panic and shutting down portions of the economy with your words of wisdom please try to take your position seriously. Do this by choosing and thinking about your words more carefully. Remember there are 300 million of us listening. We as a people need to call out our officials when they misstep like this because words like these can cause more harm than good. Let's be sensible here. Most crises are not full-scale pandemics. So let's treat them accordingly and not become a paranoid, skittishly ineffective State.

Comment by Joe B. of MA

I agree that you don't need to be a doctor or the surgeon general to know how the flu virus is spread. Therefore I think Joe Biden is absolutely right. He was speaking with common sense and speaking the truth. Any thinking American would not want their family members in confined areas with re-circulated air especially since there are still so many unknowns with this new swine flu strain. If this flu is capable of spreading easily from person to person and really is capable of killing healthy adults, we really do have something to take seriously. I agree with Joe. Sometimes the best thing for our health and well-being is not always the best for economic growth.

Comment by Jeri Slavin of MA