In the middle of a crisis, it can be difficult to comprehend the full scope of the failures that brought the nation to its knees. To reframe the coronavirus pandemic, and the Trump administration’s catastrophic response, Rolling Stone presents here a timeline.
It shows that the pandemic was not a “black swan” event — some unforeseeable tragedy. Rather, a global pandemic of this sort has been predicted for decades, and indeed previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, had sought to prepare the country for just such an outbreak. Yet upon taking office, the Trump administration consistently sought to defund and disarm America’s preparedness against a mass outbreak of a viral respiratory illness.
When the outbreak hit, the administration dithered. Our once storied public health agencies fumbled the rollout of COVID-19 testing — causing bottlenecks and weeks of delay, as powerful resources sat idle. “We didn’t unleash our biomedical establishment to create tests,” Donald Milton, who runs the Public Health Aerobiology, Virology, and Exhaled Biomarker Laboratory at the University of Maryland told Rolling Stone. He points to the alternate path of South Korea, which controlled its outbreak through mass testing, and has suffered fewer than 300 deaths. “We have that capability,” Milton says, “We could have done that.”
As weeks slipped by, and the CDC lost vision on the spread of the disease, its leaders arrogantly insisted to Americans the virus was under control. That was the favored message of president Trump, who from the get-go treated the outbreak as a public relations crisis, in which admitting danger to the general public was seen as akin to admitting defeat.
When the administration’s dangerous denialism crashed into reality, the scope of the fallout was almost inconceivable. The virus was spreading exponentially, as markets crashed and millions were put out of work — forcing Congress to pass the largest rescue package in the history of the country. Worse, the administration’s months of inaction had compounded the crisis by leaving frontline healthcare workers without proper equipment, battling the pandemic in stadium ponchos and homemade masks.
The coronavirus outbreak demanded a whole-of-government response, with a competent executive branch coordinating the deployment of resources, public and private, to prevent the deadly disease from wreaking havoc on American lives and our economy. What followed instead was a whole-of-government failure:
President George W. Bush delivers a speech to the National Institutes of Health: “A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire. If caught early, it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it…. If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.”
Bush-era Centers for Disease Control publishes pandemic response plan.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine reportedly blocks $870 million in flu pandemic preparedness funding from Recovery Act stimulus.
National Institutes of Health sponsors study that warns: “In a severe influenza pandemic, hospitals will likely experience serious and widespread shortages of patient pulmonary ventilators.”
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sponsors study warning of a deficit of up to 60,500 ventilators in a severe influenza pandemic.
Department of Homeland Security study predicts a severe flu epidemic could result in 6.5 million hospitalizations and 2.3 million ICU admissions and “could overwhelm the Healthcare and Public Health Sector in as little as 3-6 weeks.” Warns of “significant shortages in… personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment, including ventilators” as well as of “supply chain disruptions” that could “significantly hamper the effectiveness” of frontline workers.
Document outlines strategy now known a “flattening the curve”:
Obama HHS solicits plans for a machine that can produce up to 2 million N95 respirators a day. “Respirator manufacturing capacity remains a critical gap” in pandemic preparedness says a top federal official in charge of project.
Obama administration prepares a 69-page Pandemic Playbook to coordinate an early, all of government response to an outbreak. Trump officials will leave it on the shelf.
Outgoing Obama officials conduct a disaster response exercise described as “the worst influenza pandemic since 1918” with incoming Trump officials.
Trump administration — focusing DHS on immigration — shuts down department’s modeling of flu pandemics.
Former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar confirmed to be HHS secretary, replacing scandal-plagued Tom Price at helm of vast U.S. health bureaucracy.
Dr. Robert Redfield tapped by Trump administration to lead Centers for Disease Control. An experienced virologist who worked on HIV/AIDS in the military, Redfield has no experience leading an agency. Redfield’s nomination opposed Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Washington) in a letter citing a “pattern of ethically and morally questionable behavior.” Murray urged administration to “reconsider” the nomination because of “Dr. Redfield’s lack of public health expertise and his failure to embrace the science underscoring critical public health work.”
Trump administration disbands pandemic response team in White House — “no senior administration official is now focused solely on global health security,” Washington Post reports.
Trump administration presented with the Obama-ordered plans for machine able to make 1.5 million N95 respirator masks a day during a pandemic. Machine never funded or built.
Trump administration runs a pandemic wargame called “Crimson Contagion” — modeling the outbreak of an uncontrolled flu pandemic, originating in China.
CDC epidemiologist position embedded in the Chinese health authority quits, as Trump administration announces it will eliminate the post amid trade war. Move comes as part of a hollowing out of the CDC’s China presence — from 47 staffers at end of Obama era to barely a dozen.
FEMA’s National Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment for 2019 warns of pandemic risk, modeling an influenza outbreak that leads to “a shortage of medical supplies, equipment, beds, and healthcare workers as hospitals are quickly overwhelmed.”
Contract dispute leaves federal stockpile of ventilators without maintenance, starting in late August through January. When this equipment is later distributed, many ventilators are broken.
Trump administration ends funding for PREDICT — a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative to support laboratories abroad, including one in Wuhan, China, to be vigilant for viruses with pandemic potential.
Confidential HHS draft report on Crimson Contagion documents failure: “Currently, there are insufficient funding sources designated for the federal Government to use in response to a severe influenza pandemic.” It warns the U.S. “lacks domestic manufacturing capacity for the production of sufficient quantities of personal protective equipment” and that “domestic supplies of on-hand stock of… N95 respirators, ventilators, and other ancillary medical supplies are limited and difficult to restock, because they are often manufactured overseas.”
Secret briefing by U.S. military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence reportedly warns of a new contagion ripping through the Wuhan area of China.
In first publicly known case of what will be known as COVID-19, a market vendor falls ill in Wuhan.
Chinese announce investigation of dozens of viral pneumonia cases.
CDC and Chinese CDC begin talks about potential crisis.
Iranian general Soleimani killed by U.S. attack.
Iran strikes back with missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
Chinese scientists identify novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV.
CDC alerts doctors to be vigilant for patients with respiratory symptoms who have traveled in Wuhan.
Chicago woman in her 60s arrives back in U.S. from Wuhan; will soon become ill (and become second U.S. patient identified).
Washington state man, 35, returns from travel in Wuhan infected with the coronavirus. This patient appears set off community spread — that went undetected in the Seattle area for weeks — in the short period before he was isolated and treated, according to researchers who study gene mutations in the virus.
German scientists produce a test for coronavirus that will become the World Health Organization’s (WHO) test, used across much of the world, but not in the United States.
CDC launches “public health entry screening” at San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles international airports, soon extending to Atlanta and Chicago. CDC offers the public reassurance: “The risk from 2019-nCoV to the American public is currently deemed to be low.”
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases tells public: “For a family sitting around the dinner table tonight, this is not something that they generally need to worry about.”
HHS Secretary Azar, who had been alerted to the outbreak at the beginning of January, finally reaches Trump to talk about coronavirus. The president wants to talk about political fallout from administration’s flavored vape ban.
South Korea announces first case of COVID-19.
Asked if administration has “a plan to contain the coronavirus in the U.S.,” Trump replies: “We do have a plan, and we think it’s going to be handled very well. We’ve already handled it very well. CDC has been terrific. Very great professionals. And we’re in very good shape.”
CDC announces its own coronavirus test. Informs the public: “Currently, testing must take place at CDC.”
Trump praises Chinese response to the coronavirus:
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
In interview from Davos, Trump asked: “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” Trump replies: “No, not it all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
Wuhan and other cities placed under lockdown by Chinese government — many residents have already dispersed across China for lunar new year celebrations.
CDC announces more travel-related cases of coronavirus, bringing total to five.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls for emergency declaration in the U.S.
White House Domestic Policy Council chief Joe Grogan reportedly warns chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that failing to get a handle on coronavirus could cost Trump reelection.
Trump continues fulsome praise of Chinese response.
We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus. Very few cases reported in USA, but strongly on watch. We have offered China and President Xi any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2020
CDC advises against nonessential travel to China.
In letter to CDC staff, Redfield calls coronavirus “a very serious public health threat” but claims “virus is not spreading in the U.S. at this time” and that risk to general public is “low.” Foresees “it’s likely there will be some person-to-person spread with this virus.”
Memo from trade adviser Peter Navarro to National Security Council warns America would be “defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil” raising alarm about “a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”
Nearly 200 Americans repatriated from Wuhan to California air base.
Trump creates Coronavirus Task Force, headed by Azar.
WHO declares world health emergency.
CDC confirms a case of person-to-person spread of coronavirus, starting from the Washington state patient: “This latest 2019-nCoV patient has no history of travel to Wuhan, but shared a household with the patient diagnosed with 2019-nCoV infection on January 21, 2020.”
Redfield says: “We still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.”
Trump tells America: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says coronavirus outbreak in China could be an economic boon: “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”
Azar reportedly calls Trump to warn him of a possible pandemic. Trump downplays the threat, responding that “Azar was being alarmist,” according to the New York Times.
Redfield: “The risk at this time to the American public is low.”
In move he will trumpet long afterward, Trump shuts down travel of foreign nationals who’ve been in China. The restriction comes two weeks after travelers stricken with the virus appear to have spread it in the U.S. An estimated 300,000 people have arrived from China in the previous month.
Azar declares public health emergency.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci warns of asymptomatic spread: “In the beginning…it was not clear whether an asymptomatic person could transmit it to someone while they were asymptomatic. Now we know… that that is absolutely the case.”
Surgeon General minimizes the threat in a tweeted poem:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Risk is low for #coronarvirus
But high for the #flu
U.S. Army estimates coronavirus could kill as many as 150,000 Americans in a worst-case scenario.
Food and Drug Administration approves CDC coronavirus test, but only CDC is authorized to run tests, creating rationing and delays.
In State of the Union address, Trump says: “My Administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”
Trump acquitted in Senate impeachment trial.
Flights of other American Wuhan travelers land at air bases in Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio and Nebraska.
Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan after coronavirus outbreak on ship.
Azar asks Office of Management and Budget for $2 billion to replenish national stockpile with respirator masks and other supplies. White House will cut the request to $500 million.
Senators emerge from administration briefing on the coronavirus discouraged. “Bottom line,” tweets Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) “they aren’t taking this seriously enough.”
Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom line: they aren't taking this seriously enough.
Notably, no request for ANY emergency funding, which is a big mistake. Local health systems need supplies, training, screening staff etc. And they need it now.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 5, 2020
WHO sends 250,000 tests to 159 labs across the world.
CDC starts shipping coronavirus test kits to “select” laboratories. “Our goal is early detection of new cases and to prevent further spread of the coronavirus,” says Redfield.
Trump continues to praise Chinese response, claims higher temperatures should minimize the threat.
….he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2020
Trump downplays threat to U.S.: “The virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in.”
Trump White House unveils 2021 budget request, including an $85 million cut (13 percent) for the CDC’s Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases program, and a $25 million cut (3 percent) to its Public Health Preparedness and Response.
Seattle Flu Study appeals to CDC for permission to test existing flu swabs for coronavirus. Request gets tangled in CDC and FDA red tape.
WHO names illness COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
Dow peaks at record 29,551
CDC announces problems with coronavirus test: Messonnier tells press: “some of the states identified some inconclusive laboratory results. We are working closely with them to correct the issues and as we’ve said all along, speed is important, but equally or more important in this situation is making sure that the laboratory results are correct.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), after attending a classified briefing on coronavirus impacts, sells up to $1.7 million in stock.
Trump touts poll numbers: “And 61 percent of the voters approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus… Now everyone is saying we did a good job.”
National Security Council memo, “U.S. Government Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” reportedly outlines a potential, federal social distancing response, including “limiting public gatherings and cancellation of almost all sporting events, performances, and public and private meetings that cannot be convened by phone.” The memo also contemplates school closures and “widespread ‘stay at home’ directives from public and private organizations with nearly 100% telework for some.”
China extends travel restrictions of 780 million people.
Diamond Princess quarantine ends, passengers disembark in Japan.
Iran announces first cases of coronavirus.
Coronavirus Task Force reportedly reviews a proposal by Dr. Robert Kadlec, a top HHS doctor who had overseen the Crimson Contagion exercise, for social distancing to lock down of the U.S. economy. Attended by Redfield, Azar and Fauci, the group “concluded they would soon need to move toward aggressive social distancing, even at the risk of severe disruption to the nation’s economy,” according to the New York Times.
Messonnier insists centralized CDC testing is adequate: “We’re fully stood up at CDC. There is no lag time for testing at this point. That is the focus of testing in the United States, the testing here at CDC.” Calls state testing snafus “a normal part, unfortunately, of these processes.” Paints false positives as the true threat: “We obviously would not want to use anything but the most perfect possible kits, since we’re making determinations about whether people have COVID-19 or not.”
Small towns in Italy placed under quarantine as that nation’s outbreak becomes clear.
Second Navarro memo to the NSC flags “increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1.2 million souls.”
Trump insists virus “very much under control,” touts stocks.
The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2020
Trump seeks $1.25 billion in coronavirus response funding.
Association of Public Health Laboratories warns FDA that the U.S. is “now many weeks into the response with still no diagnostic or surveillance test available outside of C.D.C. for the vast majority of our member laboratories.”
In letter to Congress, Redfield brags: “CDC’s aggressive response enables us to identify potential cases early and make sure that they are properly handled.”
Coronavirus Task Force reportedly agrees to present Trump a social-distancing mitigation strategy. Trump is traveling in India, delaying plan.
Trump’s Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow: “We have contained this. I won’t say ‘airtight,’ but pretty close to airtight.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany tells FoxNews: “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here… and isn’t it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama.” (McEnany will soon be hired as White House spokesperson.)
Trump trolls Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for calling for more coronavirus funding.
Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is complaining, for publicity purposes only, that I should be asking for more money than $2.5 Billion to prepare for Coronavirus. If I asked for more he would say it is too much. He didn’t like my early travel closings. I was right. He is incompetent!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2020
Dr. Helen Chu of the Seattle Flu Study reportedly begins testing collected flu samples for COVID-19, despite lack of federal authorization.
CDC’s Messonnier, out of step with current White House messaging, attempts to level with public: “We expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” Warns of school closures, “missed work and loss of income” and that “disruption to everyday life may be severe.”
Trump reportedly calls Azar, enraged, complaining Messonnier was unnecessarily scaring the markets. Plans to brief Trump on need for social distancing measures scrapped. More that two weeks will be lost before federal government recommends distancing measures.
At press conference, Trump announces he’s ousted Azar as head of Coronavirus Task Force: “I’m going to be putting our Vice President, Mike Pence, in charge.” Trump downplays seriousness of COVID-19, “This is a flu. This is like a flu.” Adds: “We have a total of 15 [diagnosed] people, and they’re in a process of recovering… In a couple of days we’re going to be down to close to zero. We’re going down, not up. We’re going substantially down.”
President defends cuts to public health bureaucracy: “Some of the people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years. And if — if we have a need, we can get them very quickly. And rather than spending the money — and I’m a business person — I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”
CDC email to state and local officials: “Testing capacity is more than adequate to meet current testing demands.”
First confirmed case of community spread as a Californian with no travel history or known contact with other patients becomes ill.
Seemingly in reaction to Messonnier’s truth telling, all coronavirus messaging now steered through Pence’s office.
Republican Senator Richard Burr tells a private audience in Washington: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
Trump: “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Redfield walks back Messonnier comments in House testimony: “I think what Dr. Messonnier was trying to say — I think it maybe could have been done much more articulately from what the American public heard — was she was trying to say it’s also a good time for us to prepare, if we have to go to more mitigation. We’re still committed to get aggressive containment, and I want the American public to know at this point that the risk is low…. We have an aggressive containment strategy that really has worked up to this time.” Redfield says government will roll out coronavirus surveillance, like flu surveillance, over the next six to eight weeks.
Senior FDA official reportedly snaps at CDC for testing failures that include not keeping labs sterile, saying that if the agency were a private facility, “I would shut you down.”
White House chief of staff Mulvaney tells attendees of CPAC — the conservative conference — where the coronavirus was spreading: “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is what’s going to bring down the president. That’s what this is all about.” Mulvaney insists U.S. is on top of outbreak. “This is something we know how to deal with. We are the best country in the world prepared to do this. We have been preparing for this for years. We know how to handle this…. We’re ahead of the curve already.”
Azar: “Thanks to the President’s historically aggressive containment efforts… everyday Americans don’t need to be worried.”
Trump: “We’ve done a great job. The press won’t give us credit for it.”
Community spread discovered in Washington, Oregon, as well as a second case in California. At rally Trump claims criticism of his coronavirus response is nonsense, using language he used to describe Mueller investigation and impeachment: “This is their new hoax.”
February 29 U.S. Recorded Death Toll: 1
First confirmed COVID-19 death, from a nursing home in Washington state.
Redfield: “The risk at this time is low. The American public needs to go on with their normal lives….I encourage Americans to go about their life. That includes travel to California, Oregon, and the state of Washington.”
In reversal, FDA allows academic and hospital labs begin testing.
March 2 Death Toll: 6
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweets encouragement to New Yorkers to “get out on the town.”
Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see “The Traitor” @FilmLinc. If “The Wire” was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) March 3, 2020
March 3 Death Toll: 9
Washington state teenager with no risk factors test positive in Seattle Flu Study testing. Dr. Chu will say it’s then she realized: “It’s just everywhere already.”
Trump is asked if “it’s inevitable that the coronavirus will spread across the country?” Trump responds: ”I don’t think that’s inevitable at all.”
Azar: “For the average American, in your daily life, the risk of getting coronavirus — the novel coronavirus — is very low.”
Redfield: “We’re going to continue to see new cases diagnosed in the community across this country. But… I want these new cases to be viewed as a success, in one sense, of our effective public health community, and not a failure.”
Pence claims no CDC limits on testing other than a doctor’s order.
March 4 Death Toll: 11
Trump in appearance on Hannity: “We have hundreds of thousands of people who get better just by sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better.” Muses on death rate: “I think the 3.4 percent number is really a false number. Now this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations … personally, I’d say the number is way under 1 percent.”
Pence makes wild claim of testing availability: “We’ll have over a million tests in the field today.” One million tests will not be completed until the end of the month.
Redfield: “Although we’re continuing to see new community cases in this nation, the overall risk to the American public at this time still remains low.”
March 5 Death Toll: 12
I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work. This is just more Fake News and disinformation put out by the Democrats, in particular MSDNC. Comcast covers the CoronaVirus situation horribly, only looking to do harm to the incredible & successful effort being made!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2020
Redfield: “I want people to realize that when new cases are identified, that’s actually a success, not a failure. It shows that your public health community is out there doing their job with isolation and contact tracing…. the overall risk of coronavirus to the American public at this point is low.”
Fauci laments closure of pandemic response team in White House: “We worked very well with that office. It would be nice if the office were still there.”
Congress passes $8.3 billion coronavirus spending package.
March 6 Death Toll: 15
South by Southwest cancelled.
Trump visits CDC in Atlanta, where Redfield heaps praise on Trump: “I want to thank you for your decisive leadership in helping us put public health first.” Tells people: “The overall risk to the American public does remain low…. I think we have isolated a number of clusters. But it’s not as if we have multiple, multiple — hundreds and hundreds of clusters around the United States…. I mean, we’re not blind where this virus is right now in the United States.”
CDC official admits the agency adopted strict testing limits because: “We didn’t want just a lot of people with compatible symptoms who had no history of exposure to be tested.”
Trump lies: “As of right now anybody who needs a test [can get one] and the tests are all perfect. Like the letter was perfect.” Trump admits he wants to keep infection numbers low, advises against unloading a cruise ship with sick passengers off the coast of California: “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship. That wasn’t our fault.” Trump praises his own understanding of the science: “I really get it. People here are surprised that I understand it…. Maybe I have natural ability.”
March 7 Death Toll: 19
Pence appears in Florida with cruise industry executives. “We want to be clear that it is safe for healthy Americans to travel.” Other than seniors with serious underlying health conditions, Pence said: “Americans can confidently travel in this country. Confidently enjoy the benefits of this country…. The American people can continue to go about their business.”
Redfield: “At this time the risk to the American people is low in most areas of the United States…. One thing that we can all take pride in is that this country has the best public health infrastructure…. Florida is no exception in being prepared. I would encourage people to go after their regular daily lives…. I would not encourage anyone to change their plans…. They should enjoy Disneyland they should enjoy the rest of Florida.”
At Mar-a-Lago, Trump practices social distancing with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose press secretary will soon test positive for COVID-19:
March 8 Death Toll: 22
South Korea and the United States each identified their first coronavirus case on the same day; South Korea has tested 189,236, the United States 1,707.
March 9 Death Toll: 26
Oil prices crash as Saudi and Russia engage in price war.
Redfield: “At the present time, the risk to the American public does remain low.”
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
All of Italy placed on lockdown.
March 10 Death Toll: 30
Redfield admits to Congress: “The truth is we’ve underinvested in the public health labs.”
March 11 Death Toll: 38
WHO declares a global “pandemic.”
In primetime address, Trump announces travel shutdown between U.S. and Europe. Mispeaks while reading the teleprompter suggesting cargo and trade are also affected. Markets tank.
March 12 Death Toll: 41
NBA suspends season after center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tests positive.
Actor Tom Hanks and wife test positive in Australia.
HHS makes modest $4.8 million order for N95 masks from 3M — its first purchase to protect frontline workers.
Fauci testifies to Congress about testing: “The system is not really geared to what we need right now. That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.… the idea of anybody getting it, easily, the way people in other countries are doing it — we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we are not.”
March 13 Death Toll: 48
Six days after the CDC director encouraged Americans to visit, Disneyland and Disneyworld close.
Trump declares national emergency.
In Rose Garden ceremony with executives from drug companies, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, Trump makes empty promises Google will launch nationwide website to direct Americans to widely available drive-through testing. These will not materialize at scale.
Asked about Fauci’s ‘failure’ remark on testing and whether the buck stops with him, Trump says: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
Trump sends around autograph of brief Dow surge:
The White House sent an autographed print out of todays stock market chart to Lou Dobbs pic.twitter.com/bjCV26urUT
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) March 13, 2020
March 14 Death Toll: 58
Seven days after Pence and Redfield stood shoulder to shoulder with the cruise industry, CDC issues a no-sail order for cruise ships from U.S. ports.
Spain on lockdown.
Ten-day CDC “sentinel” testing program in Northern California ends; discovers 8 percent of people reporting respiratory symptoms at local urgent care facilities have COVID-19, indicating widespread community transmission.
March 15 Death Toll: 73
New York City announces school, restaurant, bar gym closures.
March 16 Death Toll: 95
Alarmed by CDC sentinel study, six Bay Area counties in Northern California order residents to shelter in place.
France on lockdown.
Asked to evaluate his response on a 10-point scale Trump says: “I’d rate it a 10.”
Trump starts calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus”:
The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2020
New York City mayor de Blasio visits gym one last time.
Imperial College (UK) study warns 2.2 million could die in U.S. with uncontrolled outbreak.
White House recommends against gatherings of more than 10 people, encourages work and school from home. Trump: “We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it, and that’s what we are.” White House launches 15 Days to Slow the Spread.
March 17 Death Toll: 121
March Madness NCAA tournament cancelled.
Testing lags persist: South Korea Testing: 274,000; U.S. testing: 25,000
March 18 Death Toll: 171
Trump: “It snuck up on us.” Calls himself, “in a sense, a wartime president”
March 19 Death Toll: 239
China announces zero new cases, a potential turning point in that country’s outbreak.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issues shelter in place order statewide in California.
March 20 Death Toll: 309
Gov. Andrew Cuomo puts New York on “pause” with similar restrictions to California.
Trump era stock market gains wiped out.
March 21 Death Toll: 374
HHS finally makes a large investment in protective equipment, with $173 million order for N95 masks.
March 22 Death Toll: 509
Trump starts railing about the costs of social distancing.
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
Trump muses to reporters: “How life can change. 20 to 22 days ago, everything’s perfect. We’re looking forward…more jobs & more everything. And then one day we get hit with this thing that nobody ever heard of before. Nobody ever even heard of before.”
March 23 Death Toll: 689
Great Britain on lockdown.
March 24 Death Toll: 957
Trump again rages about shutdown:
Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2020
Trump says he wants to open the country by Easter. Reveals he set the target independent of health advice. “I just thought it was a beautiful time. It would be a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline. It’s a great day.”
1 in 1,000 New York metro residents infected. Coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx: “Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread to others.”
Fauci admits the U.S. is still held back by lack of testing: “Particularly those areas that are not hotspots, we need to know what the penetrance of infection is there. So we need to put a light on those dark spots that we don’t know. We have to act, policywise, on data. And we’re going to be getting more data — a lot more data.”
March 25 Death Toll: 1,260
Trump blames media for social distancing, suggesting a conspiracy to lower his approval rating:
The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2020
G7 nations unable to agree to a joint statement on COVID-19 after Mike Pompeo and the State Department insists on calling it the “Wuhan Virus”
Trump: “It’s hard not to be happy with the job we’re doing.”
Pence touts 432,000 tests completed.
Senate passes $2.2 trillion bailout package.
March 26 Death Toll: 1,614
3.3 million Americans file unemployment claims.
One month to the day after Trump predicted the U.S. would be “down to close to zero” cases, U.S. passes China in disclosed cases, to become world leader in COVID-19 with more than 80,000 positive tests. Trump touts testing: “It’s a tribute to the testing. We’re testing tremendous numbers of people.” Insists of the pandemic: “This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this country.”
Trump tells Hannity: “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”
JAMA paper by MIT scientist warns coronavirus can be spread much farther than six feet by a sneeze: “The gas cloud and its payload of pathogen-bearing droplets of all sizes can travel 23 to 27 feet.” Author calls on CDC to urgently revise guidelines.
March 27 Death Toll: 2,110
Trumps signs $2.2 trillion rescue package.
Trump on Democratic governors he’s feuded with in Washington state and Michigan: “I want them to be appreciative.” Says he told Pence: “Don’t call the woman in Michigan. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
March 29 Death Toll: 3,251
Trump touts his TV ratings:
Because the “Ratings” of my News Conferences etc. are so high, “Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers” according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. “Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.” said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2020
Trump extends social distancing to end of April. Claims he just heard for the first time that 2.2 million Americans could die without social distancing.
Trump suggests nurses are stealing respirator masks. “Something’s going on. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?”
March 30 Death Toll: 4,066
Trump touts completion of 1 million tests — 26 days after Pence insisted there were that many distributed.
Trump invites My Pillow executive to speak in Rose Garden press conference on the coronavirus.
Birx warns of mass death: “If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities”
Captain of carrier Theodore Roosevelt writes letter asking Navy to dock, unload, and quarantine 4,000 crew members to end outbreak of COVID-19 on ship. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
March 31 Death Toll: 5,151
Trump: “The surge is coming, and it’s coming strong… We are going to go through a very tough two weeks. This is going to be a very, very painful two weeks.” Blames Obama for “obsolete tests.” Asked whether impeachment took his eye off the ball, Trump responds, “I guess it probably did.”
April 1 Death Toll: 6,394
Trump touts his social media clout. “Did you know I was number one on Facebook? I just found out I’m number one on Facebook.”
April 2 Death Toll: 7,576
Jared Kushner claims nation’s medical stockpile is not for the states: “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use.”
DOD seeks to acquire 100,000 body bags.
Captain Brett Crozier of the Theodore Roosevelt relieved of duty.
Fauci on the lack of stay-at-home orders nationwide: “I don’t understand why that’s not happening.”
April 3 Death Toll: 8,839
CDC advises cloth masks for the public. Trump says he won’t. “I just don’t want to wear one myself.” Touts response: “We have done a job like nobody’s every done a job.” Blames states: “Many of the states were totally unprepared for this…. They should have had more ventilators.”
Ignoring new science, Redfield insists virus can’t travel more than six feet: “This virus has a great weakness: It can’t jump from one person to another if it’s got to swim more than six feet.”
April 4 Death Toll: 10,384
155 members of Roosevelt carrier test positive for coronavirus.
April 6 Death Toll: 13,398
April 7 Death Toll: 15,526
With more than 1,900 fatalities, COVID-19 becomes nation’s leading cause of daily deaths.
April 8 Death Toll: 17,691
April 9 Death Toll: 19,802
Jobless claims surge to 17 million since crisis began.
Roosevelt positive tests reach 416.
The Wall Street Journal always “forgets” to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are “through the roof” (Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale, according to @nytimes) & is only way for me to escape the Fake News & get my views across. WSJ is Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 9, 2020
April 10 Death Toll: 22,038
CDC publishes research warning that those infected with the virus may spread it more than double the distance of 6 feet: “The transmission distance of SARS-CoV-2 might be 4 m.” (Four meters is just over 13 feet.)
April 12 Death Toll: 25,789
Fauci on CNN: “If…you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that.”
April 13 Death Toll: 27,515
Trump insists at White House press conference: “Everything we did was right.”
April 14 Death Toll: 30,081
Trump delays stimulus checks to struggling Americans so that they can include his signature.
Trump announces United States will freeze funding to WHO, scapegoating the U.N. agency for “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
April 15 Death Toll: 32,712
Trump warns of deaths from not reopening the country from suicide and mental health problems: “There is also death in keeping it closed… There is death in having a strongly closed country.”
April 16 Death Toll: 34,905
Trump “Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we are starting our life again. We are starting rejuvenation of our economy again.”
April 17 Death Toll: 37,448
Trump sides with protesters defying stay at home orders in blue states.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
April 19 Death Toll: 40,901
Trump predicts a final death toll from the coronavirus: “It looks like we’ll be about a 60,000 mark.“
April 20 Death Toll: 42,853
Amid White House boasts of testing availability, Maryland’s Republican Governor scores 500,000 tests from South Korea in an end-around the Trump administration. To prevent their confiscation by the federal government, Larry Hogan will put the stockpile of tests under the watch of the National Guard.
April 23 Death Toll: 50,234
Trump muses that a disinfectant injection might cure COVID-19 patients.
— Richard Hine (@richardhine) April 24, 2020
April 24 Death Toll: 52,191
Georgia reopens gyms, nail salons and tattoo parlors.
Trump signs a new $484 billion relief package for hospitals and small businesses.
April 27 Death Toll: 56,795
As COVID deaths rival those America suffered in Vietnam, Trump bumps his death toll projection to 70,000, insisting, “we’ve made a lot of good decisions.”
April 28 Death Toll: 59,265
Trump returns to predicting virus will resolve on its own without a vaccine: “I think what happens is it’s going to go away.”
April 29 Death Toll: 61,655
Jared Kushner tells Fox & Friends: “The federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story.”
Trump repeats vanishing virus claim: “It’s gonna go. It’s gonna leave. It’s gonna be gone. It’s gonna be eradicated.”
April 30 Death Toll: 63,859
New jobless claims hit 30 million since start of pandemic.
May 3 Death Toll: 68,697
Trump ups death projection again, “Let’s say it’s 100,000, or 90 or 95.”
May 5 Death Toll: 72,271
Trump dismisses concerns of rising death as state economies reopen suggesting people will die either way: “We’re letting people go to their jobs — they have to do it,” he says. “Between drug abuse, suicide — there’s no great win one way or the other.”
May 6 Death Toll: 74,799
Trump continues to highlight the negative PR effects of effective testing: “In a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”
May 7 Death Toll: 76,928
After 20,000 nursing home deaths, the administration delivers its first PPE shipment to a nursing home.