Former President Barack Obama has warned leaders against spreading misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Former President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Illinois on October 29, 2019.
Obama made an appearance Thursday at a virtual event for the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative, a program from former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s philanthropic organization. Obama offered advice on responding to the pandemic to a large number of local leaders from cities around the world.
Bing COVID-19 tracker: Latest numbers by country and state
“To be able to share information and best practices makes all the difference,” Obama said. “Speak the truth. Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion. Speak it with empathy for what folks are going through. The biggest mistake any us can make in these situations is to misinform, particularly when we’re requiring people to make sacrifices and take actions that might not be their natural inclination.”
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Obama encouraged the city leaders to base their response to the pandemic on the opinions of experts, rather than solely relying on their own instincts.
“The more smart people you have around you, and the less embarrassed you are to ask questions, the better your response is going to be,” said Obama.
He also asked the leaders to be mindful of vulnerable groups who may be hit especially hard, while also looking out for issues such as domestic violence, which has been reported more frequently as a large proportion of people have been ordered to stay home.
The world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Montefiore Medical Center employee walks past signs thanking the medical staff on April 9 in New York City. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that while signs show that measures taken by New Yorkers are beginning to flatten the curve, COVID-19 deaths across the state hit a daily record for the third straight day on Wednesday with 799 fatalities.
Staples Center is illuminated in blue lights during the coronavirus pandemic on April 9 in Los Angeles. Landmarks and buildings across the nation are displaying blue lights to show support for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A healthcare worker takes part in a demonstration as part of a national day of action calling on federal and local authorities to provide more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and support outside New York-Presbyterian Medical Center in upper Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City on April 9.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listen as Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus outbreak on April 9 in Washington.
Members of the press wait in-line in the James Brady Press Briefing Room for a COVID-19 test April 9 at the White House in Washington, DC.
Empty roads leading into and out of the Las Vegas strip are seen as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 9.
A lone passenger sleeps in an otherwise empty Amtrak car as the train pulls into Penn Station on April 9 in Baltimore, Maryland. Amtrak and commuter trains have cut daily routes.
A general view of The Seattle Great Wheel lit up in blue to honor essential workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on April 9 in Seattle, Washington.
Digital billboards and a US Flag at half-mast at Time Square on April 9 in New York City. – New York Governor Andrew Cuaomo ordered flags at half-mast to honor COVID-19 victims.
President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in Washington D.C on April 9.
The “Teammates” statues of former Boston Red Sox players Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio wear makeshift masks made of Red Sox merchandise as the Major League Baseball season is postponed due the coronavirus pandemic on April 9 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Wearing his official robe, New York City Criminal Court Judge Paul McDonnell works remotely from his Brooklyn apartment due to the coronavirus outbreak on April 9 in New York. Judge McDonnell, who usually presides over cases in a Manhattan court room, has had to alter his work routine by hearing cases remotely due to the virus outbreak.
Krisna Carter, right, Jr. Sous Chef for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, prepares hot dogs at Bricktown Ball park on what would have been opening day for minor league baseball on April 9 in Oklahoma City. The OKC Dodgers Baseball Foundation provided over 5,000 hot dog lunches across the Oklahoma City metro area to frontline workers and essential personnel who are helping the community in fighting COVID-19.
Digital billboards seen at Time Square on April 9 in New York.
Volunteers pack up boxes of food to be distributed to those in need at the distribution center of the Capital Area Food Bank on April 9 in Washington, D.C.
A member of the White House Press Corps holds up an informational note that was given to him after the White House administered a test for COVID-19 ahead of the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in Washington, D.C on April 9.
People walk away with food that members of the AFL-CIO, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Labor Community Services were handing out on April 9 in Los Angeles.
Lily Haines is hugged by her dad, Jeph Haines, and mom, Suzanne Haines, as she celebrates her sixteenth birthday on her apartment balcony, watching her friends drive by with signs and balloons on April 8 in Los Angeles.
Paul Fragoso and his daughter Amber Fragoso sit on their windowsill while practicing social distancing in Cave Creek, April 8..
A tent is seen erected inside the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for what will be a temporary field hospital constructed by the Samaritan’s Purse and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, April 8.
Church member Ivan McDonald mows the lawn at the Glen Echo Christian Church, on April 8, in Des Moines.
A seder meal to celebrate Passover is seen as Elynn Walter connects with her family using video chat so they can practice the Jewish tradition together in Washington, on April 8.
Sarah Silverman is seen applauding to show her gratitude to medical staff and essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic on April 8, in New York City.
The Shubert Theater closed during the coronavirus pandemic on April 8 in New York City. The Broadway League announced today that theaters will remain closed until June 7, effectively ending the 2019-2020 season.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to the press during a daily coronavirus briefing on April 8 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.
A lawn sign thanking delivery drivers is seen in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in Atlanta, Georgia on April 8.
The Los Angeles Coliseum sports arena is seen empty as the spread of the coronavirus continues in Los Angeles on April 8.
Personal bottles of hand sanitizer sit on the desk of each South Carolina House member ahead of a special one-day legislative session on April 8 in Columbia.
A sign at the entrance to the Orinda Care Center stating the center is now closed to visitors is seen on April 8 in Orinda, California.
Detroit bus driver JaVita Brown wears gloves and a protective mask during the COVID-19 outbreak in Detroit on April 8. Detroit buses will have free surgical masks available to riders starting Wednesday, a new precaution the city is taking from the new coronavirus.
A sign thanking frontline workers is seen on an apartment window, during the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York on April 8.
Voters fill out ballots at Riverside University High School during the presidential primary election in Wisconsin on April 7.
Hospital personnel displays a thank you card after US businessperson Michael ‘BigMike’ Straumietis donated masks to the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank on April 7.
Signs made by prisoners pleading for help are seen on a window of Cook County Jail in Chicago on April 7.
Unused rental cars fill the Dodger Stadium parking lot in Los Angeles on April 7.
A woman exits Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan past messages of thanks written on the sidewalk in New York City on April 7.
At the White House on April 7, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a conference call with banks on efforts to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Outside City Hall in Boston on April 7, Mayor Marty Walsh speaks at a press briefing on the city’s efforts battling the coronavirus pandemic.
A grocery store employee sprays hand sanitizer in a customer’s hands as he enters the store on April 7 in Miami Beach, Florida.
A sign in Los Angeles on April 7 encourages people to take safety precautions by not touching their faces as coronavirus infections accelerate.
A scarecrow dressed in a white coat next to a sign that reads “Thank You Healthcare Workers!” on April 7 in Owings, Maryland.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez celebrates the Chrism Mass for the faithful of the nation’s largest Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles on April 6. Without the ability to have public Mass and visitors due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels live-streams its services.
New York City nurses and health workers gather at a ‘COVID-19 Frontline Health Worker Action’ event on April 6 to demand safer working conditions, more personal protective equipment (PPE) and free virus testing.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C) speaks during a briefing following a meeting of his coronavirus task force in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 6.
Jack Graham Jr. (L) exalts in a win while playing 10,000, a dice game, with his friend William Wentworth at The Exhibition Hall at the Seattle Center on April 6 in Seattle, Washington. The space currently has 150 beds, separated six feet apart, and operated by the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).
City of Sunrise employees place groceries provided by the food bank Feeding South Florida into the vehicles of the needy on April 6. Feeding South Florida has seen a 600 percent increase in the those asking for food aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
NYU Langone Health workers applaud medical staff and essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic on April 6 in New York City.
Dr. Diana Sedler, a periodontist, puts on a mask made by a 3D printer and designed at her family’s business, Burbank Dental Lab, on April 6 in Burbank, Calif. The lab, which typically makes dental products such as dentures, night guards and appliances, has shifted some of its efforts to making masks for health care workers dealing with shortages of protective equipment.
People walk down a St. Louis street wearing face coverings on April 6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings after recent studies have shown a significant portion of the population can transmit the coronavirus without showing any symptoms.
Passengers from the Coral Princess cruise ship board a charter flight at Miami International Airport during the coronavirus outbreak on April 6, in Miami.
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“We’re seeing disparities in how people are affected in cities and towns and communities across the country. Look out for the vulnerable,” Obama said. “When you start looking at issues of domestic abuse and you start looking at racial disparities that are popping up in your cities, paying attention to that is the kind of leadership I know all of you aspire to.”
Obama has been relatively quiet since leaving office and has rarely commented during the pandemic, although he has occasionally provided his opinions and advice on social media.
“Social distancing bends the curve and relieves some pressure on our heroic medical professionals. But in order to shift off current policies, the key will be a robust system of testing and monitoring – something we have yet to put in place nationwide,” tweeted Obama on Wednesday.
Social distancing bends the curve and relieves some pressure on our heroic medical professionals. But in order to shift off current policies, the key will be a robust system of testing and monitoring â something we have yet to put in place nationwide. https://t.co/evkTSrzReB
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 8, 2020
Over four years after Obama left office, President Donald Trump claimed that the slow rollout of COVID-19 testing in the U.S. was the former president’s fault, citing a testing “rule” imposed by Obama and telling reporters “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the delays on March 13.
Experts say that the rule Trump referenced did not exist, although there was non-binding guidance concerning regulation of a type of lab test. However, the guidance was never implemented and completely withdrawn before Trump took office, according to Factcheck.org.
Newsweek reached out to Obama for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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