At this moment, when the world Coronavirus cases have crossed 1.9 million mark and US, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the UK have become the most-affected countries, thousands of reports, pictures and videos related to the COVID-19 pandemic have hit social media platforms.
While most of them targeted US President Donald Trump, recently former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has posted a video claiming that public health was never Trump's priority. On Wednesday, 73-year-old Reich from Democratic Party posted a video on Twitter where he explained the truth behind the Coronavirus pandemic in the US and how President Trump acted on this issue from the beginning. The video was shared with a text that reads:
'We pretty much shut it down.'
'Coronavirus is very much under control.'
'It's going to be down to close to zero.'
Trump's priority has never been public health. It's been to downplay the virus in order to boost his shot at reelection.
But don't take my word for it. Take his.
Coronavirus and Trump administration
It should be noted that in 2005, then US President George W Bush had warned about being prepared for a pandemic while the country was facing a shortage of medical equipment including protection care for healthcare workers and ill-prepared fight the pandemic. At that time, while addressing the gathering at NIH, which also included Dr Anthony Fauci in the audience, Bush said during his speech, "It is vital that our nation discuss and address the threat of pandemic flu now."
In an interview with ABC News, Fran Townsend, a former adviser on Homeland Security, while recalling his interaction with Bush said that at that time the nation's most comprehensive pandemic plan was created, "A playbook that included diagrams for a global early warning system, funding to develop new, rapid vaccine technology, and a robust national stockpile of critical supplies, such as face masks and ventilators."
However, in the recent video, Reich said that Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 has been "a deliberate disaster" from the beginning of the outbreak. He mentioned that in 2018, the US President allowed the Pandemic Preparedness Office in the National Security Council to dissolve and followed it up with budget cuts to the Health and Human Services and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in 2020.
Reich who served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton said, "That team's job had been to follow a pandemic playbook, written after global leaders fumbled their response to Ebola in 2014. Trump was briefed on the playbook's existence in his first year. Had he listened, the government would have started getting equipment to doctors two months before the virus hit our shores."
Trump's ignorance turned the outbreak into pandemic
He also talked about the intelligence report which was received by the White House in mid-January this year that warned the Trump administration about a potential global outbreak. Reich mentioned that "HHS Secretary Azar spoke with trump to emphasize the threat of the virus, just as US diplomats were being evacuated from Wuhan," where the Novel Coronavirus outbreak emerged.
As per Reich, after the virus was confirmed in South Korea and the US, the Korean officials immediately drafted medical companies to develop test kits for mass production while Trump said in an interview in the same week, "We have it totally under control, it is one person coming in from China."
Reich mentioned that while the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency but "Donald Trump did nothing." After Hubei, the initial epicentre of Coronavirus went on lockdown, Trump restricted entry of any foreign travellers from China, which according to Reich was "hardly proactive but took no additional steps" to prepare the country for the infection.
Reich also claimed, "Trump did not ramp up production of test kits so we could begin isolating the virus." However, by February US reported 14 infection cases, but the CDC's test kits proved faulty, he added. During that time, Trump finally started claiming that the virus will go away after the weather got warmer in April.
In February, CDC Deputy Director, Anne Schuchat said that "Current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic." Later in a press conference, Trump said, "The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year" to compare the Coronavirus with seasonal flu and also mentioned the health crisis a hoax by the Democrats.
Reich said,"Meanwhile South Korea was on its way to testing, a quarter-million people, while the US was testing 40 times slower," and when a cruise ship which had US coronavirus infected passengers Trump said just for one ship, "I don't need to have the number double." Only after the stock market went down, did Trump declare a national emergency in the mid-March and by the end of the month governors of US states started to shut down public places and schools.
Reich further blamed saying, "His priority was never public health, it was about making the virus seem like less of a nuisance so that numbers would look good for his re-election. Only when the stock market crashed did Trump finally begin to pay attention and mostly to bailing out big corporations in the form of a massive $500 billion fund rather than helping ordinary Americans."