CDC Fumbled Early Communication With Public Health Officials, Underestimated Coronavirus Threat, Emails Reveal
ProPublica and KHN have obtained emails that show missteps from the CDC and other agencies in the early, crucial days of the outbreak. What comes through clearly is confusion, as the CDC underestimated the threat from the virus and stumbled in communicating to local public health officials about what should be done.
Internal Emails Show How Chaos At The CDC Slowed The Early Response To Coronavirus
On Feb. 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out an email with what the author described as an “URGENT” call for help. The agency was struggling with one of its most important duties: keeping track of Americans suspected of having the novel coronavirus. It had “an ongoing issue” with organizing — and sometimes flat-out losing — forms sent by local agencies about people thought to be infected. The email listed job postings for people who could track or retrieve this paperwork. (Chen, Allen and Churchill, 3/26)
Kaiser Health News:
‘Red Dawn Breaking Bad’: Officials Warned About Safety Gear Shortfall Early On, Emails Show
A high-ranking federal official in late February warned that the United States needed to plan for not having enough personal protective equipment for medical workers as they began to battle the novel coronavirus, according to internal emails obtained by Kaiser Health News. The messages provide a sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s statements at the time that the threat the coronavirus posed to the American public remained “very low.” In fact, concerns were already mounting, the emails show, that medical workers and first responders would not have enough masks, gloves, face shields and other supplies, known as PPE, to protect themselves against infection when treating COVID-19 patients. (Pradhan and Jewett, 3/28)
In other news from the administration —
Trump’s April Challenge: Leaning Into The ‘Deep State’ To Quell A Raging Crisis
Everyone in the White House owns — or wants to own — a piece of the administration’s coronavirus response. Vice President Mike Pence is officially running the coronavirus task force. Senior adviser Jared Kushner has propped up his own operation focused on increasing the testing capacity in the U.S., forging partnerships with private industries and business executives, and tracking down desperately needed medical supplies. (Cook and Orr, 3/29)
Mnuchin: Virus Task Force Unanimously Shunned Trump's Quarantine Idea
The White House coronavirus task force unanimously shunned President Donald Trump’s suggestion of a quarantine in the New York City area, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday. The president “did very seriously consider” the idea of locking down the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” But Trump was dissuaded after a meeting with the task force led by Vice President Mike Pence. (Rahman, 3/29)
Mnuchin Emerges As Key Asset In Trump's War Against Coronavirus
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has taken on an outsized role in the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, serving as a key conduit between President Trump and Congress. Mnuchin has helped shepherd through two massive legislative packages aimed at helping address the public health crisis and the ensuing economic fallout, engaging constantly with Democratic leaders despite the considerable partisan divide that has plagued Washington. (Chalfant and Elis, 3/29)
Who Is Deborah Birx?
One of the new staples of the coronavirus outbreak here in the U.S. has been the nightly briefings from the White House coronavirus task force. A regular at the lectern, and often the only woman on stage, is Dr. Deborah Birx. In her role as coronavirus response coordinator, she has become one of the most prominent voices of the administration around this crisis. Her appearances are a cross between a war briefing and FDR's fireside chats. She mixes the minutia of disease transmission with deeply personal stories, then pivots to complex discussions of antibody testing for the virus. She scolds and reassures within minutes of each other. (Beaubien, 3/27)