An exhausted medic at a New York City hospital (Anadolu/Getty)
The New York Times documents how Donald Trump blocked the Federal Government for more than two months from taking significant action to stop the spread of Coronavirus in the US.
The article, from “dozens of interviews with current and former officials and a review of emails and other records”, complements last weekend’s Washington Post revelations of Trump’s denials and mismanagement over 70 days from January to March.
On Saturday, the US death toll reached 20,608. The increase was almost 2,000 for the fourth straight day, with the number of confirmed cases reaching 529,951.
The Times report details that:
*The National Security Council had intelligence reports in early January predicting the spread of the virus to the US, and how it presented options within weeks such as stay-at-home measures and lockdowns of cities the size of Chicago
*Trump lied that he was not told of a January 29 memo from his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, projecting 500,000 deaths and trillions of dollars in economic loss from the virus
*In a January 30 phone call, Trump told Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that he was being alarmist about the possibility of a pandemic
*The Administration delayed for weeks Azar’s plan for a “surveillance” system in five cities to measure the spread of Coronavirus and to project the next hot spots
*By the third week in February, the Administration’s public health advisors recommended stay-at-home and social distancing measures. But the White House concentration on Trump’s image in the crisis, delaying any implementation for four weeks.
“We were flying the plane with no instruments,” an official summarized.
See also Video: 21st Century Medicine Show — Trump, The Fox “Doctors”, The Bitcoin Speculator, The Billionaire, and the Coronavirus “Wonder Drug”
EA on BBC and talkRADIO: Trump’s Coronavirus Diversions
“People Are Carrying the Virus Everywhere”
The US Center for Diseases Control head Robert Redfield was told on January 3 by a Chinese official of the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan. Redfield told Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who notified the White House and the National Security Council.
But as officials assessed the possible spread to the US, Trump said the virus was a Democratic “hoax” and assured on January 22, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
He continued through February, “It’s going to work out fine….We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people….When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”
But senior officials were e-mailing from the end of January, “The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe,” and recommending the closures of schools and universities. They convened on February 21 to carry out a pandemic exercise and to discuss measures “such as school dismissals and cancellations of mass gatherings”.
Their concerns and recommendations were reinforced by news two days later that asymptomatic carriers of Coronavirus could infect others: “People are carrying the virus everywhere.”
Trump Blocks Preparations
The advisors — Azar; Redfield; Dr.Robert Kadlec, the top disaster response official at HHS; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — agreed on the plan, “Four Steps to Mitigation”.
But Trump had blown up on February 25 when he learned of the group’s recommendation of school closures, stay-at-home directives, and “significantly limiting public gatherings and cancellation of almost all sporting events, performances, and public and private meetings that cannot be convened by phone”.
Returning from India, he heard the blunt warning of Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, “It’s not so much of a question of if [Coronavirus in the US] will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen.”
As Trump’s supporters trashed Messonnier as a “Deep State” agent, he fumed over a sharp fall in the stock market. When he reached Washington on February 26, he berated Azar and cancelled the meeting with the medical experts.
Instead, effectively sidelining the group, Trump called a news conference to announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the White House response.
Pence and his staff effectively silenced the medical advisors with the command for no more “alarmist” messages.
The Administration only issued social distancing guidance on March 16. In the previous 18 days, the number of US cases had risen from 15 to 4,226.
And by then, the opportunity was lost for vital preparations. Health and Human Services asked the White House Office of Management and Budget for authority to shift $136 million into programs to combat Coronavirus. Azar and his aides said a supplemental budget request, for billions of dollars, should be sent to Congress.
White House staff rejected the “alarmist” approaches.
More than a month later, in late March, the Administration finally ordered 10,000 ventilators, a fragment of what will be needed by State and local health officials. Many will not arrive until summer or fall.
“It’s actually kind of a joke,” said an administration official.