WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The Washington Post report showed on Saturday that as early as mid-January, Trump was already warned by Health Secretary Alex Azar about the COVID-19 threat but the president shrugged it off.
- In January and February, Trump continued to belittle the magnitude of the outbreak, saying that the pandemic is “under control” even the cases were rising over time.
- According to critics, the danger of coronavirus cases worsened due to bureaucratic delays, the administration’s lack of urgency and failure to formulate a coherent chain of command.
An investigation report of The Washington Post disclosed on Saturday that President Donald Trump dismissed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s “alarmist” warnings on the threat of the coronavirus back in mid-January.
In its investigation series on the wasted opportunities in government agencies vis-à-vis the pandemic threat, the Post said that Azar contacted the president on January 18 to inform him about the disease. Trump was then staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Based on the report, Trump dismissed Azar even before the latter could start to discuss criticisms over the federal vaping ban mess. The president’s attention was focused then on his ongoing impeachment trial.
Azar told some officials that Trump perceived his warnings as “alarmist,” and sought advice from one confidante as he struggled to convince the president to act accordingly.
As an afterthought, other authorities told the Post that Azar could have been more assertive in talking to Trump — in which the health secretary did not immediately comment on.
White House spokesman Judson Deree said in a statement to the Post: “While the media would rather speculate about outrageous claims of palace intrigue, President Trump and this Administration remain completely focused on the health and safety of the American people with around the clock work to slow the spread of the virus, expand testing, and expedite vaccine development.”
Aside from Azar’s warnings, Trump was likewise advised about the virus threat during an intelligence briefing in January. However, as recalled, Trump continued to downplay the virus scare in his weekly public statements that time.
Trump told the media days upon being warned by Azar, “We have it [the coronavirus] totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.”
The president was claiming then that the virus will be wiped out by April during a campaign rally in South Carolina, and said that the coronavirus was the Democrat’s “new hoax.”
According to critics, the failure emanated from the lack of urgency, bureaucratic delays, and the failure to formulate a coherent chain of command. As a result, the US was unable to immediately formulate a mass testing program to mitigate the virus.
It was only in March when Trump acknowledged the degree of the situation facing the government, and that his legacy would be defined by his response, said the Post.