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HEADLINES: Trump’s “Flailing Incompetence” and Health Care Sabotage Have Corroded America’s Preparedness for a Coronavirus Outbreak

By February 26, 2020No Comments

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, the Trump administration’s failure to prepare for a potential pandemic in the United States has left Americans vulnerable. Experts have said the administration’s budget cuts, the president’s premature statements that everything is under control and the failure of the administration to mount a coordinated and effective response has sabotaged our ability to protect Americans from this threat. 

Trump Receives Bipartisan Condemnation On Capitol Hill Over Coronavirus Readiness And Response While White House Officials Continue To Create Confusion 

POLITICO: Coronavirus Triggers Swift Bipartisan Backlash Against Trump. “The Trump administration confronted a new threat Tuesday in the mounting coronavirus crisis: a fierce bipartisan backlash amid contradictory statements from the federal government about the severity of the outbreak. Administration officials sought to swat away concerns their emergency request for $2.5 billion to address the outbreak was inadequate, even as some Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing the amount — and slamming a lack of transparency around efforts to contain the disease on U.S. soil.” [POLITICO, 2/25/20]

Washington Post: White House Struggles To Contain Public Alarm Over Coronavirus. “The rosy sheen that Trump, Kudlow and other White House officials have tried to express about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak has now collided with reality: The coronavirus is spreading, quickly, to more countries. The death toll is rising, and the outbreak is wreaking havoc on global supply chains. And the White House’s efforts to contain and control government messaging on the disease have come under attack. Trump is highly concerned about the market and has encouraged aides not to give predictions that might cause further tremors.” [Washington Post, 2/26/20]

New York Times: Coronavirus Shows the Problem With Trump’s Stock Market Boasting. “There’s a reason most presidents are cautious when talking about the stock market. President Trump is learning it the hard way this week. He is, in effect, experiencing the downside of having spent the last three years personalizing much of what happens in the markets and the economy, saying that the soaring stock values under his watch are a reflection of his special ability, and a central part of his case for re-election in November. Most presidents avoid boasting about a rising stock market because they know how fragile it is, and how little control over stock prices they really have, and how stock prices can move sharply for reasons outside their control, or sometimes for no clear reason at all. The cost of claiming personal credit for stock market gains comes when you get stock market losses. And that is particularly relevant after a 7 percent drop in the S&P 500 since its peak last Wednesday, seemingly caused by a recognition on Wall Street that the spread of coronavirus could disrupt the world economy.” [New York Times, 2/26/20]

Vox: Trump Says Coronavirus Is “Under Control.” It’s Not. “Amid concerns that the US government response to the global coronavirus threat has been underwhelming, President Donald Trump minimized concerns over the novel virus while praising his decision-making and attacking his enemies over the illness…Trump has been accused of appearing to argue the virus will essentially take care of itself, tweeting that cases will diminish “as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.” While warmer temperatures do limit the spread of certain viruses, like many that cause influenza, it isn’t clear whether the novel coronavirus is one of these. There are still many things scientists don’t understand about this coronavirus, and most experts say more research is needed in order to understand whether the weather will have any effect on transmission.” [Vox, 2/25/20]

POLITICO: Kudlow Breaks With CDC On Coronavirus: ‘We Have Contained This.’ “White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that the U.S. has ‘contained’ the threat of a domestic coronavirus outbreak, breaking with the warnings of officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…some of his comments stood in contrast to public pronouncements from CDC officials Tuesday that painted the coronavirus’ health threat to the U.S. as the most serious it‘s been. Nancy Messonnier, who heads the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned that American communities need to prepare now for the possibilities of remote work, teleschooling and other provisional measures when the disease starts spreading domestically.” [POLITICO, 2/25/20]

Vox: Trump’s Flailing Incompetence Makes Coronavirus Even Scarier. “Late last week, the US government overruled objections from the Centers for Disease Control to put 14 coronavirus-infected Americans on an airplane with other healthy people. The Trump administration swiftly leaked that the president himself was mad about this decision, and that nobody told him about it at the time…it’s a confession of a stunning level of incompetence…Trump not only hasn’t personally involved himself in the details of coronavirus response (apparently too busy pardoning former Celebrity Apprentice guests), he hasn’t designated anyone to be in charge.” [Vox, 2/25/20]

Washington Post: Shortages, Confusion And Poor Communication Complicate Coronavirus Preparations. “Major U.S. hospital systems are burning through their supplies of specialized masks needed for a widespread epidemic of coronavirus, in part because federal protocols call for them to be thrown out after a single use in practice sessions, federal officials have told health-care leaders…at a tense invitation-only briefing held last week, the Department of Health and Human Services offered few answers to health-system leaders trying to prepare for wider spread of the coronavirus, according to participants.” [Washington Post, 2/25/20]

CNN: Trump Claims Coronavirus Is ‘Going To Go Away’ Despite Mounting Concerns. “The President maintained his sunny optimism about the virus that is showing signs of spreading around the world from its Chinese epicenter and is already having a huge impact on global commerce…but behind the scenes the President is less calm, and he is expressing frustration at some of the ways his administration is responding to the outbreak, sources familiar with the conversations told CNN. His mood reflects a growing realization among Trump’s staff that the coronavirus is going to pose a greater challenge than previously understood…as disquiet mounted by the hour in Washington, Trump was still not showing much concern late Monday about a virus that has infected more than 80,000 people and killed at least 2,704 worldwide and has now popped up in South Korea, Iran, Italy, Afghanistan, Kuwait and elsewhere.” [CNN, 2/25/20]

Washington Post: A Faulty CDC Coronavirus Test Delays Monitoring Of Disease’s Spread. “In a congressional hearing Tuesday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on whether the CDC test was faulty. He denied that the test did not work. But in a news briefing that was going on about the same time, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that she was “frustrated” about problems with the test kits and that the CDC hoped to send out a new version to state and local health departments soon.” [Washington Post, 2/25/20]

Washington Post: Market Plunge Over Coronavirus Fears Underscores Political Risk To Trump. “The Trump administration’s disjointed handling of the outbreak has faced mounting criticism as the president’s allies have scrambled to take preventive steps while seeking to reassure the public, at times struggling to explain their decisions and offer a consistent message…for a president who has governed ‘by tweet and circus,’ a potential global health crisis that blunts economic growth could expose one of Trump’s main weaknesses as he prepares to face voters in November.” [Washington Post, 2/24/20]

Washington Post: Behind Our Sluggish Response To Coronavirus, An Unnecessary Battle Over Funding. ”The White House appears to have informed Democrats that they want to fund the emergency response in part by taking money from a program that funds low-income home heating assistance. A document that the Trump administration sent to Congress, which we have seen, indicates that the administration is transferring $37 million to emergency funding for the coronavirus response from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which funds heating for poor families.” [Washington Post, 2/25/20

Meanwhile, Global Health Experts Are Warning That Trump Has Left America Unprepared For An “Inevitable” Outbreak

POLITICO: U.S. Coronavirus Outbreak Inevitable, CDC Official Says. “A coronavirus outbreak in the United States is now inevitable, a top CDC official said Tuesday, elevating concerns that the public health emergency could soon become a full-scale pandemic. ‘Ultimately, we will see community spread in this country,’ Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases told reporters on a call. ‘It’s not a question of if but rather a question of when and how many people in this country will have severe illness.’” [POLITICO, 2/25/20]

STAT: CDC Expects ‘Community Spread’ Of Coronavirus, As Top Official Warns Disruptions Could Be ‘Severe.’ “The CDC urged American businesses and families to start preparing for the possibility of a bigger outbreak. Messonnier said that parents should ask their children’s schools about plans for closures. Businesses should consider whether they can offer telecommuting options to their employees, while hospitals might need to look into expanding telehealth services, she said.” [STAT, 2/25/20]

CNN: The Government Had A Model For Handling Ebola. Trump Has Ditched It. “Never interested in government details, President Donald Trump now wants to purge officials of dubious loyalty. Wall Street is reminding Americans a weakened executive branch carries risks. The two-day plunge in financial markets reflects growing alarm over the threat coronavirus poses to the economy. Containing that threat depends in large part on the skillfulness of the Trump administration’s response in concert with governments abroad. That response has not inspired much confidence this week, even as the number of known coronavirus cases in the US remains small.” [CNN, 2/26/20

Bloomberg: Opinion: Trump Laid The Groundwork For A Coronavirus Mess. “It’s hard to imagine a president doing more to make himself vulnerable to damage from a viral outbreak than Donald Trump has over the last three years…which is just an introduction to Trump’s budgets…Trump’s name is on them, which means that when he regularly (for example) demands large cuts in the agencies responsible for fighting epidemics, he’s vulnerable to political attacks.” [Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg, 2/25/20

POLITICO: Trump Faces ‘Black Swan’ Threat To The Economy And Reelection. “President Donald Trump’s top aides faced an increasingly urgent threat Monday with potentially monumental implications: a global outbreak knocking down the U.S. economy and walloping markets in an election year, all against accusations about whether the Trump administration had mismanaged and underfunded a critical response with American lives on the line…with the possibility of a U.S. outbreak growing by the day, Trump allies and advisers have grown increasingly worried that a botched coronavirus response will hit the U.S. economy.” [POLITICO, 2/24/20]

Vanity Fair: Trump Has Already Hamstrung The U.S.’s Coronavirus Response. “The White House is expected to request emergency funding from Congress this week to support its response to the coronavirus, as critics take aim at the administration’s characteristic disorganization in dealing with the crisis and how past budget cuts may have left the country less prepared to tackle it. The amount the administration will seek is not yet clear, but according to Politico, it could be as little as $1 billion—far less than experts say is necessary to fight what the World Health Organization warned is not yet, but could become, a pandemic.” [Vanity Fair, 2/25/20]

CNN: Opinion: Under Trump, America Is Less Prepared For A Coronavirus Outbreak. “…President Donald Trump has taken actions that many doctors and experts agree will leave the US less prepared to respond to COVID-19…he’s shown his antipathy toward addressing health emergencies like this one, most recently in his proposed 2021 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which would cut $3 billion from response and preparedness funds.” [Chelsea Clinton and Devi Sridhar, CNN, 2/24/20]

New York Magazine: Why The Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Response Continues To Raise Concerns. “On Saturday, Politico reported that the White House is planning to ask Congress for emergency funds to handle coronavirus in the United States. The sum, however, could be as little as $1 billion, which public-health experts believe would be drained all too quickly by vaccine research and lab tests. (To compare to a recent health crisis, the Obama administration requested $6 billion in emergency funding for the 2014 Ebola outbreak and eventually received $5.4 billion.) Though Democrats in Congress have pushed the administration to call for emergency coronavirus funding since early February, Politico states that ‘White House officials have been hesitant to press Congress for additional funding, with some hoping that the virus would burn itself out by the summer.’” [New York Magazine, 2/24/20]