Unveiling a sequence of insurance policies meant to mitigate the specter of COVID-19, President Donald Trump additionally sought to answer criticism that his administration has been sluggish to cope with what’s now a worldwide pandemic.
In explicit, the president defended his administration on the problem of inadequate testing assets and what specialists say is a looming scarcity of medical gear and personnel.
His argument? No one noticed this coming.
“It snuck up on us,” Trump stated at a March 18 media briefing. Later, he added that the virus is “a very unforeseen thing.”
Trump has repeated that concept usually recently. But the declare doesn’t sq. with the proof.
Public well being researchers have warned for years about the specter of a pandemic. And members of the Trump administration have been sounding the alarm for months now — even whereas, simply earlier this month, Trump was nonetheless evaluating the virus’s severity to the flu, and arguing that it “will go away” if individuals “stay calm.”
We contacted the White House, which declined to touch upon the file. Meanwhile, unbiased specialists instructed us this declare is deeply deceptive.
The Coronavirus Itself
Both in Washington, D.C., and internationally, well being officers had been warning concerning the risks posed by COVID-19 since at the least January, with some early indicators going again to December, when the sickness emerged within the Wuhan province of China. Those warnings continued into February, effectively earlier than the White House started taking severe steps to extend testing and remedy efforts ― a delay that specialists stated has considerably undermined the nationwide response.
Indeed, by mid-January, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar instructed the president that the virus — which had already unfold by way of China ― may pose a menace domestically, too, in accordance with reporting by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico.
Then, by the top of the month, Azar declared it a “public health emergency” within the United States. According to the Times report, Dr. Robert Redfield, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had additionally by that time realized “that it had a great ability to go global.”
“The alarm was sounded in January,” stated Jennifer Kates, a world well being skilled on the Kaiser Family Foundation. “This wasn’t a surprise.” (Kaiser Health News is an editorially unbiased program of the inspiration.)
At that time, researchers instructed us, decisive and widespread federal motion may have made a giant distinction.
But publicly, Trump was nonetheless evaluating the coronavirus to the flu, downplaying the chance on Twitter and tv, and declaring repeatedly that the brand new virus was below management.
Warnings from others continued. On Feb. 25, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who runs CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, additionally highlighted the chance the virus would pose.
And in fact, the coronavirus warnings didn’t come solely from Washington.
On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” citing its speedy unfold since December, when it emerged in China.
In doing so, “we were alerting all countries of a very real threat of international spread,” stated Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson.
By Feb. 24, WHO had instructed reporters that the virus had an actual threat of changing into a world pandemic, and warned that every one nations must be ready.
The weeks-long gaps between these warnings and federal efforts to truly check for coronavirus, and to deal with it, matter vastly, Kates stated.
“It was very visible what was happening and what measures we should be taking,” she instructed us.
Had the White House acted earlier, particularly by stepping up efforts to check for the virus and isolate instances instantly, the virus may not have unfold as shortly, international well being specialists stated. The ongoing efforts to “socially distance” even individuals with out signs — which have giant financial and well being downsides, are much less efficient and fewer enforceable, researchers instructed us ― wouldn’t be as needed as they’re now.
“Delays of days here matter. When we start throwing away weeks, we really change what’s possible,” stated Christopher Mores, a world well being professor at George Washington University. “If we had done a little more of anything, we would find ourselves in a better situation than where we are right now.”
Specialists in public well being and nationwide safety had been warning for years a couple of looming pandemic — and noting that the United States wasn’t adequately ready for the devastation it may wreak on each residents’ well being and the economic system.
The solely particulars lacking have been what pandemic and when exactly it will strike.
“Public health experts have been shouting that a major pandemic is likely and, in fact, is the greatest security threat we face,” stated Lawrence Gostin, a legislation professor at Georgetown University who research public well being legislation.
As for claims that one thing like COVID-19 “snuck up on us” or was “very unforeseen”?
“It is simply astonishing and simply untrue,” he stated.
Researchers pointed us to numerous studies ― together with some by authorities officers — that highlighted the specter of a pandemic.
In May 2018, researchers at Johns Hopkins University put out a paper warning that respiratory viruses posed a “global catastrophic biological risk.” In explicit, the researchers warned about RNA viruses ― viruses made up of the historically single-stranded ribonucleic acid that additionally trigger diseases such because the widespread chilly, influenza, hepatitis C and polio.
Their warning wasn’t off: COVID-19 is certainly a respiratory sickness brought on by an RNA virus, from the identical particular viral household — that’s, the coronavirus household ― as SARS and MERS.
Then, in October 2019, the World Economic Forum, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted an event to debate how private and non-private pursuits must reply within the occasion of a pandemic. That was solely one among many such “simulations” run by well being specialists involved about how the U.S. would reply to a looming pandemic menace.
“Experts agree that it is only a matter of time before one of these epidemics becomes global — a pandemic with potentially catastrophic consequences,” learn the occasion description.
And months later, in January 2019 — greater than a yr earlier than the president’s advisers sounded the coronavirus alarm ― the subject of a world pandemic emerged once more, in a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support,” reads the report.
In reality, the report advised animal-to-human transmission as a supply for the subsequent main pandemic — which, specialists say, is how COVID-19 emerged.
And, lastly, reporting from Politico shows that, when Trump entered workplace, members of the Obama administration warned about the specter of a looming viral pandemic ― and famous that, if it occurred, the nation didn’t have the medical assets to deal with it.
“Many people saw this coming, although, of course, it was not known exactly when,” stated Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Put one other manner: Experts have been speaking concerning the want for pandemic preparedness, Mores recalled, for at the least so long as he has been finding out international well being. He’s been within the subject for 25 years.
President Donald Trump stated COVID-19 “snuck up on us,” and was “a very unforeseen thing.”
In reality, the president heard warnings about this particular virus from his advisers and the worldwide well being neighborhood for months. And public well being and nationwide safety specialists had been highlighting the dangers for even longer about the specter of some sort of pandemic — even when the main points weren’t but recognized.
Indeed, it’s due to Trump’s sluggish response to the pandemic that “social distancing” is now required on such a big scale. Earlier, extra centered testing and sequestering of individuals with the virus may have mitigated a few of the response now required, specialists instructed us.
Trump’s declare is wrong and flies within the face of years’ price of proof. We charge it Pants on Fire.