Trump Ignored Intelligence Reports Warning Of Coronavirus Outbreak Severity
President Donald Trump dismissed initial reports in January from U.S. intelligence agencies that warned about the sweeping consequences the novel coronavirus could pose.
“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” a U.S. official involved in the coronavirus briefings told the Washington Post. “The system was blinking red.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday during a White House briefing that China had first alerted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about the virus on Jan 3. Azar was unable to reach Trump to talk about the virus until Jan. 18, at which point he switched topics to flavored vaping product sales.
While the intelligence reports did not say when the virus would hit the U.S. or what preventative measures would block it, they did examine how the virus spread in China and warned that it appeared Chinese officials were downplaying the severity of the outbreak.
Trump seemed to believe Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s information, despite his decision to block officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from assisting and researching the new strain.
“China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” Trump tweeted Jan. 24. “The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020
He continued to dismiss concerns about the virus through February, saying that “warmer weather” will help eradicate the virus and later called it Democrats’ newest “hoax.”
On Feb. 14, Trump tweeted about the minimal number of cases in the U.S., seemingly expecting the virus to quickly become a non-issue.
“We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it,” he wrote. “It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.”
The number of cases in the U.S. has since jumped to over 46,000 and nearly 600 people have died, according to Worldometer.
Trump is now taking the pandemic seriously, having declared a national emergency and completely shifted his tone after the stock market plunged last week.