Published April 17, 2020 / Updated May 26, 2021
This is Trump's Pandemic
The virus is from China; the pandemic is homegrown.
As of the time of this writing, the United States has more than 690,000 cases of COVID-19; more than Italy, Spain, Germany, and France---combined. So far, those cases have resulted in over 35,000 deaths --- a greater loss of American life than 9/11, the American Revolution, the War on Terror, and by the time you read this it may have passed the Korean War (36,574).
The COVID-19 virus arose in China in late 2019, but the pandemic that is gripping our country, crushing our economy, and killing our citizens began much earlier.
The following is a timeline, both of the coronavirus and the administration's failure to anticipate, react to, and take seriously the outbreak that will come to define the Trump Presidency.
A novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible between humans continues to be a major threat, with pathogens such as H5N1 and H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus having pandemic potential if they were to acquire efficient human-to-human transmissibility.
"Are we ready to respond to a pandemic?" asked Dr. Luciana Borio, who was head of the since dissolved global health section of the National Security Council.
Dr. Borio answered her own question: "I fear the answer is no." She was discussing the influenza but could have just as easily been referencing the coronavirus, given the similarities between the two infections.
The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton.
The abrupt departure of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer from the National Security Council means no senior administration official is now focused solely on global health security. Ziemer's departure, along with the breakup of his team, comes at a time when many experts say the country is already underprepared for the increasing risks of a pandemic or bioterrorism attack.
Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned.
"It was heartbreaking to watch," said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who served in that role, which was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2011. "If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster."
The simulation's sobering results --- contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported --- drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed.
The draft report, marked "not to be disclosed," laid out in stark detail repeated cases of "confusion" in the exercise. Federal agencies jockeyed over who was in charge. State officials and hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was stockpiled or available. Cities and states went their own ways on school closings.
Nov. 17 — Patient Zero infected with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China
Unverified information online said the illnesses were caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [Ed: COVID-19 is a SARS variant virus], which emerged from southern China and killed more than 700 people in several countries and regions. SARS was brought under control through quarantines and other extreme measures, but not before causing a virtual shutdown to travel in China and the region and taking a severe toll on the economy.
Jan. 8 — CDC issues first warning of "Pneumonia of Unknown Etiology" in Wuhan, China
A case of the new coronavirus from China has been confirmed in a patient just north of Seattle, federal health officials said Tuesday. The mysterious pneumonia-like illness has killed at least six people and sickened hundreds of others in Asia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Q: Mr. President, do you have a plan to contain the coronavirus in the U.S.?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We do have a plan, and we think it's going to be handled very well. We've already handled it very well. CDC has been terrific. Very great professionals. And we're in very good shape. And I think China is in very good shape also.
It's one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It's going to be just fine.
Feb. 2 — Trump: "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China"
Feb. 3 — U.S. reports more than 10 cases of COVID-19, Trump Administration ignores U.S. Army warnings about Covid-19
Military leadership was aware of this document in early February
A month after the Army's briefing, on March 4, President Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that the World Health Organization's coronavirus death estimate of 3.4 percent of cases was a "false number," since it contradicted a "hunch" he had. "It's not that severe," the president said.
The infected passengers had no symptoms and could be segregated on the plane in a plastic-lined enclosure. But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed, contending they could still spread the virus. The CDC believed the 14 should not be flown back with uninfected passengers.
The State Department won the argument. But unhappy CDC officials demanded to be left out of the news release that explained that infected people were being flown back to the United States --- a move that would nearly double the number of known coronavirus cases in this country.
"And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done." — President Trump. February 26, 2020
Feb. 29 — First US death from COVID-19
Mar. 2 — US reports more than 50 cases of COVID-19
"You take a solid flu vaccine — you don't think that would have an impact or much of an impact on corona?" — President Trump. March 2nd, 2020
Mar. 5 — US reports more than 150 cases of COVID-19
"Anybody that needs a test gets a test; they're there, they have the tests, and the tests are beautiful," Trump told reporters during the visit, touting the administration's response as more than 270 cases of the virus were confirmed across more than two dozen states as of Friday.
"The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?" he added later. "This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good."
"It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away." — President Trump. March 10th, 2020.
Mar. 11 — US reports more than 1,200 cases of COVID-19; daily fatalities from COVID-19 exceed Benghazi attack.
The US declined to use a test approved by the World Health Organization in January --- instead, the CDC developed its own coronavirus test. However, there were manufacturing defects with the initial CDC tests which meant many of the results were inconclusive.
Mar. 13 — COVID-19 Declared a National Emergency; 50 Americans dead
"This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic" — President Trump. March 17th, 2020
Mar. 21 — More Americans lost to COVID-19 (346) than died in Gulf War (294)
Mar. 24 — US reports more than 50,000 cases of COVID-19
"You can call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus. You know, you can call it many different names. I'm not sure anybody even knows what it is" — President Trump. March 27th, 2020
Mar. 29 — More Americans lost to COVID-19 (2517) than died in the D-Day invasion (2500)
Apr. 11 — U.S. reports more than 500,000 cases of COVID-19
"I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus"
Remember that chart? The one at the beginning of this article? Every single country on that chart had the exact same information the United States had. The World Health Organization didn't drop the ball here; the Trump administration did.
And not just once. Over, and over, and over again the Trump Presidency preferred fiction to fact, charlatans to scientists, and pettiness to preparedness. The consequences of those decisions are ones that Americans can't live with... we have to bury them.
What Can I Do?
First, please stay at home if you can, and follow the CDC guidelines for slowing the spread. Get important Covid-19 related information for your state on Resistbot with the covid keyword. Everything from state statistics to school closures to mental health assistance to unemployment is there.
Second, we need every American to reach out to their elected officials. Congress needs to defend themselves as a co-equal branch of American government. Funding for the World Health Organization was allocated by Congress; funding or defunding it is not the President's decision. You can remind them of that by sending congress to Resistbot.
State governors need to assert their rights to continue to flatten the curve. No matter how much Mr. Trump may want to re-open the country to bump the stock market up, the lives of tens-of-thousands of Americans are at stake. Mr Trump can not compel states to lift their stay at home orders and the governors must stand firm. You can write your state government by sending state to Resisbot.