Former president Barack Obama spoke at a virtual meeting of mayors and other local leaders amid the coronavirus pandemic, and he had a warning for them: "The biggest mistake any [of] 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," Obama said, per Newsweek, at the Thursday COVID-19 Local Response Initiative meeting organized by Mike Bloomberg's Bloomberg Philanthropies. Obama's advice? "Speak the truth. Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion. Speak it with empathy for what folks are going through," he said, per the Hill.
More than 300 cities around the globe were represented at the meeting; participants also included response team members. "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," Obama said. He specifically asked participants to pay attention to the most vulnerable in their communities, including those at risk of domestic violence, and urged leaders to look into any "racial disparities that are popping up in your cities." Obama has also been tweeting a lot, and on Wednesday he noted, "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." (Read more coronavirus stories.)