On The Daily Show Monday, former National Security Advisor and UN Ambassador Susan Rice spoke about watching President Donald Trump and his administration completely dump the pandemic plan she and others in the Obama administration formulated.
Rice was part of the pandemic response team during her time in the Obama White House, and she described the nature of such health crises on the show Monday: “It’s hard to predict exactly when they’ll come, but we know they will come — and they’ve come repeatedly,” from the 1918 flu outbreak to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Before Trump took office, Rice said they left the incoming administration an array of briefing papers and a comprehensive playbook — which she jokingly called “Pandemics for Dummies” — outlining the best ways to react to and start dealing with a looming crisis.
Rice even recalled sitting down with the incoming Trump cabinet to run through a tabletop exercise that, she said, turned out to be particularly prescient. “It was of a novel SARS-like virus emerging from China,” Rice said. “And all of that seemed to be for naught, because a couple of years into office, President Trump dismantled the office that I set up on global health security; they trashed that playbook or stuck it in some drawer, some shelf and never pulled it out. For two months, January, February and part of March, he really denied the reality of this virus, equated it to the seasonal flu… and by that time, it was already well-embedded in our country.”
Rice also spoke about the way wearing masks to hinder the spread of COVID-19 has become politicized. “It’s ridiculous that we’ve allowed small pieces of cotton to be this incredibly divisive thing,” she said. “We don’t mind wearing shirts and pants in public, why do we have to mind wearing masks in public if it’s going to protect ourselves, our loved and those in our community?”