Another day, another report on a recent pandemic warning ignored by the Trump administration. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a day-long conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic, with sessions like “Innovations for pandemic countermeasures.”
“Are we ready to respond to a pandemic?” asked one of the doctors at the conference. “I fear the answer is no.” In one of many details that would seem over the top if this was all fictional, that doctor, Luciana Borio, was part of the National Security Council global health section that Donald Trump dismantled soon after the conference, making the U.S. even less ready to respond to a pandemic.
One of the pandemic conference’s organizers, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, subsequently did a webinar entitled “100 years since 1918: Are we ready for the next pandemic?” That webinar was cohosted by Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who was sidelined by Trump after making public remarks saying that, yes, the novel coronavirus was going to be a serious problem for the U.S.
In the webinar, Jernigan warned of “potential disruption” to supply chains and that the “healthcare system could get overwhelmed in a severe pandemic.” But it gets even more specifically tailored to what we’re experiencing two years later: “Need reusable respiratory protective devices,” he wrote, along with “better ventilator access.”
This sustained warning from CDC scientists has been available online. The government remained unprepared.
But as we know, this isn’t the only warning the Trump administration ignored. Those warnings go all the way back to the transition, when the Obama administration was handing things off to Team Trump and, as one of a series of disaster response exercises, presented the transition team with a pandemic scenario. The Obama administration also left a pandemic playbook that warned about things like the need for personal protective equipment and testing.
If Trump was personally determined to scrap every single thing that came from President Obama, though, he still could have heeded the warning of Operation Crimson Contagion, a series of Department of Health and Human Services exercises about a global pandemic conducted just last fall. Or the report by White House economists, also last fall, on the likely economic fallout of a pandemic. Or Trump’s Department of Homeland Security could have kept running pandemic simulations, as the DHS had done from 2005 to 2017.
But no. Warning after warning after warning still left the Trump administration unprepared and incompetent, disastrous, and ruinous. This. Is. On. Him. Not the virus itself, of course, but the way it spread undetected and with the public unprepared. It’s on him.