By Robert A. Vella
On January 20th to 21st 2020, the first reported COVID-19 cases were reported in South Korea and the United States respectively – virtually, on the same day. Because of its proximity to China, the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea progressed much more rapidly. However, the democratic government of that Asian nation took an aggressive response to combat the pandemic including massive testing and quarantines to stop the spread of the disease (see: One chart shows how South Korea got its coronavirus outbreak under control in less than a month). In the U.S., the Trump administration denied the impending crisis calling it a conspiratorial “hoax” and describing the new virus as nothing more than a seasonal flu.
As the reality of the pandemic became undeniable by late February in the U.S., President Trump was forced into a different strategy. He appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead his administration’s response, and soon after began holding daily press conferences where he could steal the news headlines by announcing optimistic breakthroughs and bold proposals. It sounded reassuring, but Trump’s pronouncements were filled with numerous inaccuracies, outright falsehoods, and promises which could never be fulfilled in the near future.
Just as events overtook his denial early on, events are now overtaking his media strategy. The developing crisis in the U.S. has become so acute that Trump is returning to tactics he used during the Mueller investigation and impeachment proceedings – that is, to withhold as much information as possible from Congressional oversight and from the American people in order to conceal his administration’s egregious failure on coronavirus ahead of the 2020 election.
For comparison, South Korea currently has 8,652 COVID-19 cases in which 100 people have died, but the rate of new infections is steadily declining. Its government was able to “flatten the curve” which lessened the pandemic’s impact and prevented its healthcare system from being catastrophically overwhelmed. In contrast, the U.S. currently has 16,607 cases and 219 deaths, but the rate of new infections is skyrocketing. The U.S. curve looks identical to that of Italy‘s two weeks ago whose healthcare system is now being dangerously overwhelmed by sick and dying people. It should be noted that the failure in Italy resulted from similar government inaction even though it has a highly rated (by the WHO) healthcare system.
The following stories help illustrate how big Trump’s failure on this pandemic really is. They also factually refute his recent assertions that the coronavirus “caught everyone by surprise” and that his administration is doing “everything it can” to remedy the situation. To put it more bluntly, Trump is blatantly lying to the American people; and, that should surprise no one.
PARIS (AP) — Southern Europe buckled under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, with gasping patients filling the wards of hospitals in Spain and Italy as the global death toll surpassed 10,000 people worldwide.
In the U.S., California’s governor expanded restrictions on nonessential movement for all 40 million residents, and the Trump administration warned Americans abroad to return home or risk spending an “indefinite” period away.
The World Health Organization noted the dramatic speed of the virus’ spread.
“It took over three months to reach the first 10,000 confirmed cases, and only 12 days to reach the next 100, 000,” the U.N. health agency said Friday.
The mandatory order allows Californians to continue to visit gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants, banks and laundromats. People can leave their homes to care for a relative or a friend or seek healthcare services. It exempts workers in 16 federal critical infrastructure sectors, including food and agriculture, healthcare, transportation, energy, financial services, emergency response and others.
All workers in non-essential businesses across New York state are required to stay home in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Friday morning.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the country’s 1.3 billion citizens to stay indoors to protect themselves from the fast-spreading coronavirus, hours after the government announced it was barring all international flights from landing in the country for a week starting March 22.
WASHINGTON — U.S. hospitals and medical professionals are asking for $100 billion in direct financial assistance from Congress to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with some hospitals already running short of supplies for both patients and health care workers in virus hot spots like Seattle.
In its initial legislative package, Congress appropriated funding to assist hospitals with more bed space and medical supplies, but it did not create a direct pipeline to address urgently needed supplies and equipment such as masks, ventilators and personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers.
After a second spending bill without direct payments was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, the American Hospital Association cautioned congressional leaders in a statement that “more needs to be urgently done.” That package expands sick leave and makes testing for the coronavirus more widely available.
While the Trump administration has boasted about the millions of test kits it has sent to labs across the country, governors said in a livestreamed teleconference call with the president that they don’t have enough chemicals, or reagents, to process the results. They also said hospitals in their states still don’t have enough masks, gowns or gloves to protect health workers on the front lines of the outbreak.
President Donald Trump on Thursday put the onus on governors to obtain the critical equipment their states need to fight the coronavirus pandemic — telling reporters that the federal government is “not a shipping clerk” for the potentially life-saving supplies.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump misstated the facts Thursday when he asserted that the Food and Drug Administration had just approved a decades-old malaria drug to treat patients infected by the coronavirus. After his FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs testing, Trump also overstated the drug’s potential upside in helping contain the outbreak.
Over the past week, President Trump has repeatedly addressed the coronavirus outbreak in the United States in speeches and at news briefings. Often, he’s made sweeping claims about dramatic new measures aimed at quickly addressing the virus, treatment or preventing the virus’s spread. Often, those claims turn out to be inaccurate.
WASHINGTON — The outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead.
That scenario, code-named “Crimson Contagion,” was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August.
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.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Trump administration officials are asking states to hold off on releasing unemployment-claim numbers to the public.
The request is the latest sign that the administration is fearful of the economic outlook, as businesses temporarily shut down over coronavirus and the stock market routinely sees four-digit losses on a daily basis.
Four U.S. senators sold stock after receiving sensitive briefings in late January about the emerging threat of the coronavirus, sparking concerns that they put safeguarding their private finances before their duty to protect public health.
Senators Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Kelly Loeffler, a Republican from Georgia, both completed their sales at a time when the Trump administration and GOP leaders were downplaying the potential damage the virus might cause in the U.S. and before drastic stock-market plunges set off by the pandemic.
Burr is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which receives frequent briefings about threats facing the country, and has experience responding to public-health crises. Loeffler — who was appointed to her seat in December after Senator Johnny Isakson announced that he was resigning because of health problems — is married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Jeffrey Sprecher.
Two other members of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, also sold stock after the briefings, according to financial records.
The stock dump came days after he co-authored a Fox News op-ed claiming the United States was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.”
Following the news of Sen. Burr’s stock sell off, the Daily Beast reported that Sen. Loeffler of Georgia recorded a sale of stock on January 24 — the day of an all-senators briefing with administration health officials that covered the COVID-19 outbreak.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also called for Burr to leave office if he had no “honest explanation” for his decision to dump millions in stocks before the COVID-19 pandemic struck markets.
“He had inside information about what could happen to our country, which is now happening. But he didn’t warn the public,” Carlson said on his show Thursday night.
He later added: “Instead, what did he do? He dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn’t lose money, and then he stayed silent. Now, maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with the rest of us immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”
Americans will have an additional three months to file their taxes amid the coronavirus pandemic, the US treasury secretary said Friday.
“We are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15,” Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”
The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center was removed Wednesday in what insiders fear is a purge by the Trump administration of career professionals at an organization set up after 9/11 to protect the nation from further attacks, according to two former U.S. officials.
Russell E. Travers, a highly regarded intelligence professional with more than 40 years of government service, told colleagues he was fired by acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, said the former officials, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.