EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that the coins are being sold by an entity that is separate from the U.S. government.
A website that presents itself as the White House gift shop has unveiled a seemingly unauthorized “commemorative coin” claiming to pay tribute to the coronavirus pandemic, with a price tag of US$125.
The site, which is listed as a “dot-com” domain and not a “dot gov,” nevertheless presented the coin in the style of a product linked to U.S. President Donald Trump.
The coins prompted a flurry of anger online from many high-profile figures, including Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders, who retweeted a story that took the coin to be an official White House product.
The site whitehousegiftshop.com was untangled from the government about 9 years ago and is now owned by a separate private entity, according to reporting by Josh Marshall at the site Talking Points Memo. Marshal uncovered details about the site while investigating another commemorative coin design in 2018.
The new commemorative coin presents the pandemic in the war-like terms that Trump often uses on Twitter and in press conferences. However, it does not appear to be endorsed by Trump himself.
“World vs. Virus,” says the message on one side of the coin, along with several phrases written in Trump-style capital letters.
“Together We FOUGHT the UNSEEN Enemy,” the text on the coin says. “Everyday HEROES suited up.”
The coin shows an image of the world map with a big, colourful coronavirus hovering in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The flip side of the coin shows the White House press briefing room.
One ring around the image features the names of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Another ring includes names from Trump’s coronavirus task force, including Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Williams and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. The coin does not include the name of Alex Azar, Trump’s health secretary.
The coins are part of a series on the site that commemorates some of Trump’s big moments in office. Other coins pay tribute to moments such as his meetings with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The “LIMITED EDITION COIN COINS,” as the site calls them, will be shipped on June 15.
More than 58,000 Americans have already died to date, eclipsing the country’s death toll from the Vietnam War. Health experts do not expect the virus to abate at any time.
Nevertheless, the coins are being sold to commemorate this “historical” moment this summer, the site says.
The coins are being sold for US$100 or $125 after they are released.
All profits will be donated to “five major COVID-19 research hospitals,” the site says.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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