People across America are scared, and fearing Covid19, a once in a century pandemic, will lead to an apocalypse. However, we know now (thanks to open-source reporting) that the Trump administration had several opportunities to stop the outbreak, but was slow, and blocked by their own isolationist mindset.
Below is a timeline outlining those missteps. This article will be updated as more information becomes available, feel free to leave a comment if we missed anything.
Keep in mind as you’re reading this, CoronaVirus cases double every 6 days, and in the United States, it has been doubling every 3 days.
- In 2018, Trump fired the entire Pandemic response team, who would have managed efforts to fight Covid19. The official reason given for the firings was to cut costs after the passage of Trump tax cuts, which mainly benefited large corporations and billionaires. However, some critics have suggested that the cuts were targeted to offices that were set up by the Obama administration. (Snopes, The Independent) In addition, Senator Sherrod Brown wrote a formal letter to Trump demanding answers surrounding the firings. (NBC News)
- Other attempted budget cuts were:
- 15% from the Health and Human Services Budget
- $35 million from the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Fund
- UPDATE: He eliminated the US government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund. (Business Insider)
- $1.2 Billion from the CDC, particularly efforts to assist countries (including China) to fight new viruses as well as chronic diseases in the United States. The attempts to cut the CDC budget began in 2018, to make up for the loss of revenue from the Trump tax cuts, and those request for cuts persisted until March 20, 2020, when the number of US coronavirus cases surged to 5,000 nationally. (The Hill, Snopes)
The Trump administration cut staff by more than two-thirds at a key U.S. public health agency operating inside China, as part of a larger rollback of U.S.-funded health and science experts on the ground there leading up to the coronavirus outbreak. (Reuters)
- Also in 2018, the Trump administration has imposed more than $400 billion dollars of tariffs on imports from China; $360 billion dollars of duties remain in place as of March of 2020. Critical medical products, including face masks, gloves, protective goggles and thermometers, have been subject to Section 301 import tariffs, putting American health workers at risk (Washington Post).
- The first Covid19 cases are reported in Wuhan China in October of 2019. (Fox News) A report is prepared and given to Trump on a scenario called Crimson Contagion highlighting a possible pandemic and how underfunded and unprepared the United States is. No action is taken. (New York Times)
- UPDATE: In November, additional reports are circulated regarding the threat of the Virus. (ABC News)
- In January of 2020, CIA and other government organizations brief Donald Trump on the state of Coronavirus, and its possible threat to the US. Trump dismisses Secretary Azar’s concerns and chooses to focus on flavored vaping products. (CNN)
- It would later be revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials. The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats. (MSNBC)
- Following the CIA and HHS briefing, acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and others in the White House begin tracking the spread of the virus, despite the Presidents lack of concern. Mick Mulvaney is soon fired with no public reason given. (Washington Post)
- In mid-January, the White House also directed HHS conversations on Covid19 to be Classified: Top Secret, meaning important and vital staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, delaying any response even further. (Reuters)
I want to take a moment to highlight something; at this point, in January of 2020, the administration was aware of the threat of a Covid19 pandemic, and there were several steps they could have taken:
- Similar to Obama, he could have issued a proclamation to temporarily waive or modify requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the public health emergency. Trump took no action. (White House Archives)
- Similar to Obama, he could have used the bully pulpit of the presidency and launched a media campaign on the essentials of good hygiene and social distancing. Trump took no action. (Crooked Media)
- Similar to Obama, he could have instructed the surgeon general to launch a media campaign on the essentials of good hygiene and social distancing. Trump took no action. (CDC YouTube)
- Similar to Obama in 2014, he could have deployed nearly 3,000 U.S. military personnel to help contain and kill the epidemic before it could spread around the world. Trump took no action. (NBC News)
- He could have called for a national survey of Ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment, and Masks, to shore up the nation’s hospitals and the Strategic National Stockpile. Trump took no action. (NBC News)
- He could have called for an increase in funding and staffing for hospitals to fight this virus and increase capacity. Trump took no action.
- He could have initiated a worldwide task force, that America would lead, coordinating international efforts to confront the virus. Trump took no action.
- He could have appointed a Corona Czar to coordinate US efforts. Trump took no action.
- He could have called on the American people to give blood and plasma to build up supplies. Trump took no action. (Red Cross)
- Similar to Obama with Ebola, he could have instructed the CDC to issue a centralized response and clear guidelines for doctors, hospitals, governors, mayors, and local health departments. Trump took no action. (HuffPost)
- He could have begun calling up reserve personnel in the Army and National Guard, which is a complicated process because the Pentagon wants to ensure it doesn’t call up personnel already fighting COVID-19 as civilian doctors. Trump took no action. (NBC News)
- UPDATE: He could have referenced a 70-page color-coded playbook formed under the Obama National Security Counsel that was entitled, “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.” Trump took no action and actively disregarded the playbook. (Politico)
- UPDATE: He could have issued a National Stay At Home Order to “flatten the curve” and save lives. Trump took no action. (The Hill)
Also in January of 2019, German researchers created a test designed to detect CoronaVirus. This test was certified as highly effective, and quickly adopted by the World Health organization to be used around the world. However, the CDC (staffed by Trump appointees) chose to reject international assistance, and develop its own test, which turned out to be flawed, losing 2 weeks or more.
- The US is significantly behind on testing coronavirus patients compared to countries like South Korea and China. (Business Insider)
- Delays in US testing can be attributed, in part, to the CDC’s decision to develop its own test, which turned out to be faulty. (Business Insider)
- The US also restricted testing criteria so that not everyone with symptoms of the virus was eligible to be tested. (Business Insider)
- No clear reason was given for the rejection of the German/WHO test. Possible reasons range from “pride” (Business Insider), “xenophobia” (Esquire), and corruption, including that Jared Kushner’s brother runs an American company developing a Covid19 test (DC Report).
- Republican strategist, Stuart Stevens, would later admit that Republican anti-intellectualism would build this moment. (Washington Post)
Individual states and labs began developing their own tests, and sought an Emergency Use Authorization (or E.U.A.) from F.D.A. starting on February 4th. Such an authorization is necessary according to federal law, and was used routinely throughout the Obama Administration on H1N1, SARS, Ebola, and other instances, sometimes turning around an E.U.A. within 12 hours. However, Trump appointees at the FDA dragged their feet, taking weeks to approve new tests. (The New Yorker)
UPDATE: At around this time, the Seattle Flu Study, funded by Bill Gates, was working on a research study, taking swabs of hundreds of patients to track the flu. They requested permission from the federal government to study for possible CoronaVirus infections as well, and the federal government ordered them NOT to test for CoronaVirus. (Business Insider)
Rather than alerting the country, or taking concrete actions, Trump spent weeks downplaying the Covid19 virus, calling it a, “Democratic Hoax.” (Guardian Video below)
On January 17, 2020, the CDC unilaterally decided to deploy 100 personnel to three airports in the United States for public health screenings against the CoronaVirus (CDC Website). However, it was later revealed by a whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services that more than a dozen workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective gear, and may have contributed to the spread of the virus. (CNN)
UPDATE: By the end of January, a majority of the intelligence in the President’s daily briefing was about the CoronaVirus. “The system was blinking red,” one US official said. (Business Insider)
On January 31, 2020, Trump did make one good decision, to ban most travelers from China from entering the United States. That bought the United States time. However, no additional steps were taken by Trump or the administration in the following two weeks. (CNN)
In addition, due to the lack of warning from the federal government, most Governors and local politicians did not cancel events that were high-contagion. For example, the Governor of Florida did not cancel spring break, risking the lives of millions of college-aged Americans in a state that also has a high elderly population. The Mayor of New Orleans did not cancel Mardi Gras, citing that she did not receive any warning from the Trump Administration. (CBS News)
UPDATE: On February, 7, 2020, the World Health Organization sounded alarm bells about “the limited stock of PPE,” noting demand was 100 times higher than normal for this equipment. Yet the same day as the WHO warning, the Trump administration announced that it was transporting to China nearly 17.8 tons (more than 35,000 pounds) of “masks, gowns, gauze, respirators, and other vital materials.” Trump would later go on to falsely blame President Obama due to the shortage of PPE. (CNN)
On February 26, 2020, Trump announced that Vice-President Pence would lead efforts against the CoronaVirus. Mike Pence’s record on public health includes:
- Pence cut public health spending in Indiana, ranking it dead last in public health spending in the nation. (NPR)
- An unusually high number of HIV cases in Scott County, Indiana, was first spotted by health authorities in November 2014. Then, Governor Pence did not declare a public health emergency and authorize a needle exchange program for the county until March 26, 2015 (4 months later). (FactCheck.org)
- When running for Congress in 2001, Pence wrote an article on his website stating that “smoking doesn’t kill.” (CBS News)
By the beginning of March, testing was still not widely available, and only 6,000 Americans had been tested. Many critics believed that Trump and the administration were intentionally stymieing testing because they didn’t want Americans or the markets to be worried, and on March 7th, Trump inadvertently confirmed this when on a tour of the CDC, he stated, “I like the numbers where they are.” (The Guardian)
In addition, the federal government started warning high-risk individuals (asthma, immunosuppressed, etc.) to call their doctor. However, the federal government issued NO guidelines on this issue. I experienced this first hand, as I am a high-risk individual. I called my primary care doctor, as well as my rheumatologist, and there was no plan on how to deal with a possible infection.
Also at the beginning of March, Trump and the administration were urged to use the Stafford Act and declare a National Emergency, which would allow more funding and resource to be freed up for combatting the virus. Trump took no action for 13 days.
On Wednesday, March 11th, Jared Kushner was put in charge of the White House response to CoronaVirus. Rather than reaching out to the WHO, or organizations specializing in infectious diseases, he turned to his sister-in-law’s father, who then crowdsourced responses from a FaceBook group. (Politico) UPDATE: In addition, Kushner began leading a shadow task force within the White House, separate from Mike Pence’s task force. It’s efforts included building a website to direct possible patients to drive-through testing, but the efforts to create that website failed miserably. (The Atlantic)
Also on Wednesday March 11th, Trump addressed the nation in a televised address from the Oval Office. The speech was written by Jared Kushner, as well as Stephen Miller, the architect behind the child separation policy at the US/Mexico Border. (Fortune) The speech contained multiple false statements, including:
- A travel ban on all of Europe. In truth, this was exempted for Ireland and the UK, and still allowed US Citizens to return home. This announcement caused massive panic at European airports, and large crowds at airports, which could increase spread of the virus. (Reuters)
- A ban on cargo, which turned out to be false. (The Atlantic)
- That Trump had made a deal with insurance companies to cover treatment of CoronaVirus, when in reality, it was only agreed to waive copays for testing. It wasn’t until the next day that Rep. Katie Porter pressured the CDC Director to make CoronaVirus testing free for all Americans. (CNN)
- US Airports were also not fully briefed or planned accordingly for the new enhanced CoronaVirus screenings, causing long delays and crowds, which could increase spread of the virus. (Fox News)
On March 15, 2020, the Governor and Mayor of New York requested the military be deployed to New York City to set up MASH units, and assist with transportation of supplies and equipment. Trump took no action for 8 days. (MSNBC, New York Times)
On March 18, 2020, Trump announced he would invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) (National Review), for the purpose of beginning production of PPE for health workers, test kits, and ventilators. However, Trump and administration officials took no action for 6 more days. (Politico) In fact, the Trump Administration remains hesitant to invoke the full powers of the Defense Production Act because they believe it would hinder the power of the Free Market. (The New York Times)
UPDATE: On March 20, California and several other states began instituting Stay at Home orders, closing non-essential businesses, and putting their states on lockdown, in an attempt to reduce deaths and flatten the curve. It would later be revealed that if Donald Trump had issued guidelines two weeks earlier — on March 2 instead of March 16 — the death toll would have fallen by 90%. (The New York Times)
On March 21, 2020, Trump began tweeting about a new drug cocktail, and encouraging its use. The drug mixture proved to be potentially fatal, and many who took it became sick, and needed to go to the Emergency Room, blocking access for those with critical CoronaVirus symptoms. (The President’s Twitter Feed) Lupus patients also could not get their medications due to this tweet. (New York Magazine) At least one man in Arizona died, and others were injured. (NBC News) It was later revealed by the New York Times that Trump had a personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. (Also Cited by Vox)
On March 22, 2020, Trump recommended as part of a White House briefing that healthcare workers sanitize and reuse masks, even though the CDC guidelines state, “not all facemasks can be re-used” and may lead to greater infection rates of both healthcare workers and patients. (CNN)
Even after the Trump Administration started taking the threat seriously, there appeared to be little to no coordination from the federal government:
- Trump would direct governors to buy their own medical supplies, then proceed to outbid them from the federal level. (Fortune) “We are competing against every other state and the federal government,” an aide to a Democratic governor said, asking to remain anonymous to avoid angering the White House. That dynamic is inflating prices and exacerbating shortages, and “more than once, it’s been the federal government that is buying out these supplies,” the aide said. (NBC News)
- Certain swing states and heavily Republican states received 100% of their requests from the National Stockpile, such as Florida. (Washington Post)
- On March 10, California received roughly 8,000 testing kits from the federal government, but the tests were incomplete and missing several vital components, making them useless. (CBS News) On March 27, California received 170 ventilators from the national stockpile, but they were all broken. Thanks to the quick thinking of the Governors office, the ventilators were fixed over the weekend by San Jose based Bloom Energy. (Time)
- Trump publicly accused Governor Cuomo of New York of lying about needing as many ventilators as was statistically and scientifically predicted. (CBS News)
- The Governor of Michigan revealed that Medical supply vendors were told by the White House not to send “stuff” to Michigan. (Huffington Post) On March 28th, in a startling admission, Trump that he was expecting Governors to act “appreciative” and instructed Vice-President Pence to not support those Governors, “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.” (Forbes)
- UPDATE: When the Pentagon notified the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) they had 2,000 ventilators ready to be transferred to civilian hospitals, HHS delayed the transfer by not providing locations for the ventilators to be transferred to. (CNN)
UPDATE: At a certain, point, when Trump realized he could not, or would not be willing to improve the situation, he began blaming others for his administration’s failures.
- On March 30, he began using his daily press conferences as a way of spreading conspiracy theories, including saying that nurses and healthcare workers were stealing masks. (MSN)
- UPDATE; Mitch McConnell tried blaming the impeachment for distracting the White House, even though the President was acquitted on February 5th, 6 weeks before Trump declared a National Emergency surrounding. (The Hill)
- On April 1, Vice President Pence started accusing the CDC and China of the delay. (CNN)
- UPDATE: Trump would spend the first week of April falsely blaming the Obama Administration for the failings of the National Stockpile. (FactCheck.org)
- UPDATE: The Strategic National Stockpile was ordered to update their web page to conform with remarks made by Jared Kushner at a press briefing. (Politico)
- UPDATE: On April 2, Captain Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, was relieved of his command after sending a warning message about infections of Covid-19 aboard his ship. Chairman Rep. Adam Smith stated, “The dismissal of Captain Crozier at this critical moment, as the sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, is a reckless, political move that reeks of undue command influence.” (NBC News)
- UPDATE: On April 6, 2020, Trump blamed the WHO and threatened to cut their funding, but took no action. (CNBC)
UPDATE: On April 1, 2020, the Trump Administration decided not to reopen the Obamacare exchanges for the uninsured. The lack of coverage has been a key weak point in the nation’s fight to stem the outbreak. Americans who are uninsured may hesitate to get checked if they feel ill, which could lead to their infecting others, experts say.
UPDATE: Due to the complete lack of support and guidance from the federal government, some companies started taking drastic measures to support hospitals:
- FEMA Hadn’t Ordered Ventilators. Manufacturers Forged Ahead Anyway (NPR)
- It wasn’t until nearly a week after the president’s claim that General Motors and Ventec Life Systems announced that the car company would begin retooling its manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, to make “critical care ventilators” that could be ready to “ship as soon as next month.” (FactCheck.org)
- Carrying more than a million N95 masks, the New England Patriots’ private plane touched down in the U.S. Thursday, returning from China to deliver protective gear for frontline workers battling the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts and other hard-hit states. (Fox News)
- Despite all of this action by corporations, it was not enough to offset the total collapse of the American Medical System.
UPDATE: On April 2, 2020, the White House still maintained an active cover up of the reality of the situation. US Deaths surged to almost 7,000. There were dramatic failings in the PPE supply chain, leaving healthcare workers unprotected. However, Trump personally claimed that the US was performing over 100,000 tests a day and that they were the highest testing of any nation per capita, both were false. (NPR) It is estimated many healthcare workers will suffer from trauma and PTSD from this experience. (Time)
UPDATE: Even as US deaths approached 7,000 Americans, the Trump Administration was slow to use the DPA, using it only twice.
UPDATE: By April 7th, 2020, US deaths had climbed to almost 13,000, which equals 4.5 times the number of deaths on 9/11. Projected deaths were between 100,000 Americans and 250,000 Americans. Even at this late point, there are still massive issues with available testing, indicating that the deaths from Covid 19 may be much higher than estimated. (CNN) By comparison, the US and South Korea registered their first cases of Covid 19 on the same day, and while US deaths soared to 13,000, South Korea (which implemented wide testing early on) had only 192 deaths. Even if you adjust for population difference (the US is 6.4 times larger than South Korea) if the US had instituted wide-testing, similar to South Korea, the US would possibly only have 1,228 deaths from Covid 19. (World Covid 19 Tracker)
UPDATE: It was reported on April 7, 2020 that although President Trump has directed states and hospitals to secure what supplies they can, the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Hospital and clinic officials in seven states described the seizures in interviews over the past week. (L.A. Times) It was also revealed that Federal help was ending for Covid 19 test sites. (NPR)
UPDATE: On April 9, Trump began pushing for the country to quickly reopen. When asked about testing to keep people safe, Trump stated widespread testing would never happen. (Newsweek)
UPDATE: On April 14, the Trump Administration still could not manage the lack of PPE and testing, with President Trump himself pushing to open the country early, before the issue was fully resolved. President Trump also, in an effort to shift the blame, announced he would be cutting funding for the World Health Organization, which many unanimously agreed would result in more deaths. (MSNBC)
UPDATE, During the second half of May, Trump supported a number of alternative and unverified treatments, including many that would lead to the patient’s death. (PBS)
- President Donald Trump:And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or — or almost a cleaning?
- President Donald Trump:Hydroxychloroquine, try it, if you would like.
On April 17, 2020, Trump tweeted out to his followers to liberate their states in lockdown via protest. He also included encouragements to “… save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” which had absolutely nothing to do with the Covid-19 lockdowns. As a result of this tweet, numerous states saw spikes in their Covid 19 cases, and specifically the leader of the North Carolina protest contracted Covid 19. (Newsweek)
Early evidence suggests they are not organic but a brush fire being stoked by some of the same people and money that built the Tea Party.
Look no further than the first protest organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund — whose chairman manages the vast financial investments of Dick and Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary — to see that the campaign to “open” America flows from the superrich and their front groups. (The Guardian)
Stephen Moore — a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Koch ally and a Trump adviser — admitted as much in a video obtained comparing these new protesters to Rosa Parks, as first reported in The Times.
Mr. Moore, who is now leading an enterprise to end the virus precautions called Save Our Country, which includes the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, boasted that he has been working behind the scenes with a conservative donor who agreed to cover bail and legal fees for demonstrators who get arrested for defying Wisconsin’s virus protective measures. (The New York Times)
Many of these protests were fueled by wild conspiracy theories, and some states saw the anti-lockdown groups and the anti-vaccine groups joining forces. (Los Angeles Times) While many cited herd immunity, the fact is that a very large number of people must be infected to reach the herd immunity threshold required. Given that current estimates suggest roughly 0.5 percent to 1 percent of all infections are fatal, that means a lot of deaths. (The New York Times) Many Americans began referring to their own nation as a failed state, as many healthcare workers still receive inadequate PPE and inadequate federal funding. (The Atlantic)
In addition to adding fuel to the fire with protestors, Trump took the opportunity to initiate additional bans on immigration, which had no cause or affect on the Covid 19 crisis. (Crooked Media)
Meanwhile, the number of dead Americans by the end of April increased to 64,000 by the end of May, with an additional 20,000 expected to die within the next two weeks. Among the hardest hit are the Navajo Nation with the third highest rate of infection after NY and NJ. (Donate to Relief Here)