Trump Administration Warned, Held Simulations About Respiratory Disease Outbreak, Experts Say; Senate Democrat Proposes Legislation Calling For Permanent Pandemic Coordinator As Kushner’s Coronavirus Team Sows Confusion

The Hill: Senate Democrat introduces legislation requiring permanent pandemic coordinator
“Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation on Thursday requiring the administration to appoint a permanent pandemic prevention and response coordinator to the National Security Council (NSC) amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The proposed legislation follows President Trump’s decision in 2018 to scrap the post, which was first created under the Obama administration to combat the Ebola crisis…” (Axelrod, 3/19).

Kaiser Health News: Was The Novel Coronavirus Really Sneaky In Its Spread To The U.S.? Experts Say No.
“…Public health researchers have warned for years about the threat of a pandemic. And members of the Trump administration have been sounding the alarm for months now — even while, just earlier this month, Trump was still comparing the virus’s severity to the flu, and arguing that it ‘will go away’ if people ‘stay calm.’ We contacted the White House, which declined to comment on the record. Meanwhile, independent experts told us this claim is deeply misleading…” (Luthra, 3/19).

New York Times: Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded
“…The [Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services’] 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. … Many of the potentially deadly consequences of a failure to address the shortcomings are now playing out in all-too-real fashion across the country. And it was hardly the first warning for the nation’s leaders. Three times over the past four years the U.S. government, across two administrations, had grappled in depth with what a pandemic would look like, identifying likely shortcomings and in some cases recommending specific action…” (Sanger et al., 3/19).

TIME: Under Fire For Coronavirus Response, Trump Officials Defend Disbanding Pandemic Team
“…Now architects of the [National Security Council (NSC)] reorganization are speaking out, defending the White House’s decision by arguing that they merely streamlined a bloated organization and put pandemic and bioweapons experts in the same room, a move that was tested in real time by the 2018 upsurge in cases of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Former officials say that the outbreak has been largely defeated, proof that the current White House can readily respond to such threats if given enough warning. They instead blame China, claiming the country waited weeks, if not months, to warn the world early enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, with Trump and other officials now calling it the ‘Chinese virus.’ China alerted the World Health Organization to several unusual cases of pneumonia on Dec. 31…” (Dozier/Bergengruen, 3/19).

Washington Post: Was the White House office for global pandemics eliminated?
“…One can see the dueling narratives here, neither entirely incorrect. The office — as set up by Obama — was folded into another office. Thus, one could claim the office was eliminated. But the staff slots did not disappear and at least initially the key mission of team remained a priority. So one can also claim nothing changed and thus Biden’s criticism is overstated. The question that cannot be answered — at least perhaps until a congressionally mandated commission examines the U.S. preparation for this crisis — is whether a separate directorate would have had more clout to bring the issue immediately to the president’s attention…” (Kessler/Kelly, 3/20).

Washington Post: Kushner coronavirus team sparks confusion, plaudits inside White House response efforts
“Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, has created his own team of government allies and private industry representatives to work alongside the administration’s official coronavirus task force, adding another layer of confusion and conflicting signals within the White House’s disjointed response to the crisis…” (Abutaleb et al., 3/18).

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