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Tuesday, April 7, 2020
White House Trade Advisor Warned Of Coronavirus Pandemic In Memos As Early As January
Reports are trickling out from the White House about the early warnings that were given regarding a possible Coronavirus pandemic. Several weeks ago, theWashington Postreported that US intelligence agencies raised several red flags in January and February about the outbreak in China. Now, theNew York Timesreports that White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro penned another higher-level alert.
Per the report, the memo, which was dated January 29, warned that the lack of immunity and vaccines from the COVID-19 virus could lead to a widespread outbreak and risk the lives of “millions” of Americans.
“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Navarro said in the memo. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”
Navarro laid out options, “Aggressive Containment versus No Containment,” for handling a possible US outbreak with different scenarios. He noted that human and economic costs would be low if a Coronavirus epidemic resembled a seasonal flu outbreak but emphasized that the “risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked” due to the serious nature of reports on the Chinese outbreak.
Navarro estimated the cost for the no-containment strategy would range from nothing if there was no pandemic to $5.7 trillion for a lethal virus. Containment, in the form of stopping travel from China, was estimated to cost $2.9 billion per month or $34.6 billion for a full year. Navarro estimated a worst-case death toll of 543,000 Americans.
A few days later, on January 31, the Trump Administration announced restrictions on flights from China. Although touted as a ban,The Dispatchpoints out that Americans and lawful residents were still allowed to enter the country. In fact, it was an American who had traveled to China who had already become theUS patient zerofor Coronavirus on January 19. Arriving passengers were required to enter through one of 13 specific airports where, theWashington Timesreported, they were “waved through immigration, and then simply urged to self-quarantine. It’s like the honor system, but for containing a deadly pandemic.” An additional problem is that by the end of January, the virus had already spread beyond China to 15 countries.
However, there is evidence that the Trump Administration still did not take the looming pandemic seriously. Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy tweeted that the Administration was not asking for emergency funding to prepare for the virus’ arrival in the US.
“Bottom line,” Murphy said, “They aren’t taking this seriously enough.”
Murphy’s tweet is supported by President Trump’s own words and actions. The president hostedfive ralliesaround the country in February aloneplayed golf four timesbetween the beginning of February and declaring a national emergency on March 13. At the same time, he made numerous assurances that Coronavirus was “under control” in the US and that the “risk is very, very low.”
Other elements of the Trump Administration weren’t moving much faster. The lackluster response to a growing threat may be why Navarro penned a second memo on February 23. In that unsigned memo, the author, who White House staffers say was Navarro, wrote that there was an “increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1.2 million souls.”
The second memo, initially reported byAxios, warned, “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.”
In the second memo, Navarro requested an “immediate supplemental appropriation of at least $3 billion” to prepare for the pandemic.
“We can expect to need at least a billion face masks, 200,000 Tyvek suits, and 11,000 ventilator circuits, and 25,000 PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators)” over a four to six month period, the memo predicted.
It wasn’t untilFebruary 24, the day after Navarro’s second memo, that the Administration asked Congress for a $1.25 billion appropriation to prepare for COVID-19. Congress approved$8 billionon March 4 and Trump signed the bill two days later on March 6. AnAssociated Pressreview of federal contracts found that the government did not actually order medical supplies until mid-March.
Despite issuing limited travel restrictions on China in January, the Trump Administration seems to have not taken the numerous warnings about the impending health crisis seriously. Unfortunately, those travel restrictions were too little too late. The Administration wasted at least a month and only started to act with urgency when COVID-19 was already raging out of control in the United States.