My Turn: How did we get here?

Mik Muller, Greenfield Recorder. Published July 15, 2020

Reading about the recent resurgence of COVID nationally — specifically, 50,000 new cases in one day — I got to wondering how we got here.

How is it that the USA, a world super power with the wherewithal to get to the moon and back, has completely screwed up our response to the pandemic and allowed over 133,000 deaths? Americans are no longer allowed to fly to Europe.

So, I did some research and found a chilling pattern of defunding and dismantling of just about every U.S. pandemic preparation department during Donald Trump’s presidency. Our country’s failure to be prepared almost appears premeditated. Here’s a rough timeline.

A week before the inauguration, on Jan. 13, 2017, the joint Obama-Trump transition teams run an exercise for pandemic preparedness.

Four months later, in his very first budget, Trump proposed cutting over $277 million in pandemic-preparedness funding. Congress, in bipartisan action, rejects the funding cuts; however, in December, they do cut $750 million from the CDC’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF).

Nine months later, on Feb. 9, 2018, Trump signs a bill that cuts another $1.35 billion in funding for the CDC’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF).

Two months later, on April 9, John Bolton starts his first day as National Security Adviser. The very next day, he fires Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, who had called for a comprehensive biodefense strategy against future potential pandemics and biological attacks.

One month later, on May 7, the White House proposes cutting the global health budget, including cutting $252 million for health security preparedness.

That same day, the National Security Council’s director of medical and biodefense preparedness warns that pandemic flu is the top health security concern and that the country is not prepared.

The very next day, the National Security Council removes the director responsible for pandemic response and disbands the global health security team.

In July 2019, the administration eliminates an American public health position designed to detect disease outbreaks in China.

In October 2019, the administration cuts funding for a government research program designed to recognize animal viruses that could infect humans and prevent pandemics.

The next month, on Nov. 17, 2019, the first case of COVID-19 emerges in Hubei province, China.

From that point on until this March, various U.S. intelligence and health agencies, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Dr. Rick Bright and economic advisor Peter Navarro, as well as the World Health Organization, all state that this new virus was of major concern and needed to be dealt with immediately. All warnings were ignored by the president.

Even the U.S. Army’s National Center for Medical Intelligence states in February that it is imminent COVID-19 will become a pandemic. That same day, a CDC director Nancy Messonnier says community spread in the United States is inevitable and Americans should prepare for severe disruption of everyday life.

Senior White House officials deny these statements, and Trump privately complains that the CDC official’s public warning is scaring the stock markets, and threatens to fire her. He publicly remarks that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. should be “close to zero” in a couple of days.

Finally, a month later, on March 13, Trump declares a national emergency.

Over the next couple of months, Trump questions whether state governors truly need the ventilators that they are requesting; complains that he inherited “obsolete” and “broken” tests from the Obama administration; and blames state governors for supply shortages in their states.

On April 14, Trump halts WHO pending funding, despite an internal State Department memo urging the president not to halt that funding because doing so undermines the U.S. ability to address global urgent needs and the U.S.’s role as a global health leader.

On May 7, the administration shelves a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen public places. Agency scientists are told the guidance “would never see the light of day.”

This is just a short list of the devastating actions over the past few years by this administration and Trump himself that resulted in so many unnecessary deaths, and the shuttering of so many businesses.

In a statement over the weekend, Trump said he “Hopes it goes away.”

I believe Donald Trump’s actions rise to the level of criminal negligence. Research my findings and tell me I’m wrong.

Mik Muller lives in Greenfield, wears his mask when out in public, and is patiently waiting till November.