The phrase “Wuhan Virus” began trending across the United States on Sunday evening after Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu condemned Republican Congressman Paul Gosar for calling the novel coronavirus the “Wuhan virus.”
Gosar, along with Republican Senator Ted Cruz, announced earlier today that they will be undergoing 14 days of self-quarantine after both coming into contact with an individual at CPAC who later tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement shared to Twitter, Gosar said that he, along with 3 of his senior staff, are officially under quarantine after “sustained contact at CPAC with a person who has since been hospitalized with the Wuhan Virus.”
In response, Lieu, who was born in Taiwan, said Gosar’s choice of the term “Wuhan Virus is an example of the myopia that allowed it to spread in the US.”
“The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus,” the Democrat added. “I will pray for you, your staff & the person hospitalized.”
In a statement on Sunday evening, Gosar said he came in contact with the infected individual for “an extended period of time, and we shook hands several times,” but noted that he is “not currently experiencing any symptoms.”
The Republican congressman said he will “remain at my house in Arizona” for the 14-day quarantine period and will also close his Washington D.C. office for the week “out of an abundance of caution.”
Cruz released a similar statement this evening announcing his 14-day quarantine after a brief interaction with an infected individual at CPAC over a week ago, which “consisted of a brief conversation and handshake.”
“I’m not experiencing any symptoms, and I feel fine and healthy,” the senator explained. “Given that the interaction was 10 days ago, that the average incubation period is 5-6 days, that the interaction was for less than a minute, and that I have no current symptoms, the medical authorities have advised me that the odds of transmission from the other individual to me were extremely low.”
Tens of thousands of Americans took to Twitter to weigh in on Lieu’s criticism of Gosar over his Wuhan virus reference, with some critics condemning the Republican’s remark as “racist” or “xenophobic.” Others defended the congressman’s use of the term. As of Sunday evening, “Wuhan Virus” rose to the sixth-most trending topic on the social media platform across the United States. At the time of publication, the topic had garnered more than 31,000 tweets.
Newsweek reached out to Gosar for comment.
“Most people call it the coronavirus. Some call it Covid-19. But only the most ignorant and racist among us would call it the Wuhan virus,” surgeon Eugene Gu tweeted.
“Hope you’re okay, but perhaps while you’re quarantined, you will realize how astoundingly xenophobic it is to call it the Wuhan Virus,” tweeted Sleeping Giants, a social media activism organization.
“Just astoundingly gross to call it the Wuhan Virus,” MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted.
“The second dumbest member of the house is calling it wuhan virus because he’s figured out there must be a way to get racism involved,” Daily Beast editor Molly Jong-Fast tweeted.
“A GOP congressman is quarantining himself after sustained contact with a person with Covid-19 (Coronavirus), but he insists on calling it the ‘Wuhan Virus,’ presumably to blame China for this pathogen,” CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti tweeted.
“Yes, we’re sorry @DrPaulGosar, but if you refuse to use the medical terms and insist on using a place to describe the virus, then ‘Wuhan Virus’—which I’m sure you didn’t pick to be racist!—won’t work. We can’t trace your outbreak’s source that way,” attorney Max Kennerly tweeted. “No, you have ‘CPAC Virus.'”
Some conservatives defended Gosar’s use of the term as legitimate.
“I call it the Wuhan Virus. I’m Chinese. I must be suffering from a serious case of internalized racism,” tweeted Ian Miles Cheong, managing editor of Human Events, a conservative American political news website.
“Is it also astoundingly gross when Chinese in Asia call it the Wuhan Virus?” Cheong added in another tweet.