Cut out this column and save it so you can remember it. Someone will try, over and over, to make you forget it, but you will want to remember it.
Jan. 2017–Obama administration gives Trump administration a cabinet-level review of scenarios for handling hurricanes, domestic terrorists and pandemics. National Security Council gives new administration a “Pandemic Playbook.”
2018–Trump’s National Security Council disbands the committee that would handle pandemics.
Dec. 2019–COVID19 appears in Wuhan, China. China tries to keep it secret, but disease spreads.
Early January–China informs world of virus; virus DNA is identified.
January–Health workers and government officials warn U.S. administration of virus pandemic threat.
Jan. 21–First case in U.S. is confirmed.
Jan. 22–Trump claims no worry about a pandemic.
Jan. 31–Administration says all is under control; we’re in good shape.
Feb. 5–Congresspeople offer to appropriate funds for getting supplies, tests. Administration declines. Trump doesn’t take control of the situation; very little is done to prepare.
Feb. 7–World Health Organization warns of worldwide shortage of protective equipment for health workers.
Feb. 8–U.S. ships almost 17.8 tons of masks, gowns, respirators to China.
Feb. 26–Trump says that because of all the administration has done, the risk to the American people remains low. When you have 15 people, soon you have zero. We’re doing a great job. We have almost airtight containment.
Around this time, Trump says the situation is a hoax created by Democrats to score political points against him; that the administration is practicing aggressive containment, taking it seriously; that one day it will disappear, like a miracle; that people are surprised he understands this, he understands it very well; that the warmer weather will stop it.
Feb. 27–Stock Market drops heavily.
Feb. 28–First U.S. death in Washington state.
Governors and mayors, seeing that the federal government is not taking control, start to try to get supplies and ventilators, hospital space. They need tests for the virus.
February–Test created by the CDC doesn’t work, so new tests are developed from scratch. They are not readily available. Trump says that anyone who wants a test can get it and that it’s a beautiful test. To this day (3/30), the U.S. doesn’t have enough tests, and turnaround time for results in our area is 5-11 days.
March 13–Trump declares a National Emergency although he continues not to practice social distancing.
The US lost over a month through lack of urgency to get tests made and distributed, excess red tape to get tests approved, and lack of leadership. South Korea, which had its first case at the same time as the U.S. did, jumped into widespread testing, took measures to isolate COVID-19 patients, and is much better off than we are today.
Without the federal government handling procurement and shipping of supplies and equipment, governors work against each other to get what they need. Big states get some of what they want while small states can’t outbid them. The administration claims to have caused masks, gowns, etc., to be shipped out to health workers in huge quantities, but they haven’t reached our area.
It is clear that supplies and equipment should be procured and shipped from a central source, the federal government, but Trump claimed that the government isn’t a “shipping clerk” and delayed use of the Defense Production Act which allows him to demand that companies produce what is needed.
Now we are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home except when absolutely necessary to go out. We hope it works.
Sheryl Eaton is President of White Mountain Democrats.