'Frankly Frightening': Dems Slam Trump's Coronavirus Response, Urge Filling Long-Vacant Health Posts

U.S. President Donald Trump leads a meeting with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and pharmaceutical executives in Cabinet Room of the White House on March 2, 2020 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Donald Trump leads a meeting with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and pharmaceutical executives in Cabinet Room of the White House on March 2, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty

House Democrats on Wednesday signed a letter urging President Trump to restore two teams within the national security apparatus dedicated to global health threats, calling the administration’s response to the outbreak of the new coronavirus “dangerously inadequate” and “frankly frightening.”

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“In the face of such a threat, the American people need to know that there is a strategy being executed by competent leadership with adequate results. The growing evidence that such strategy is absent is deeply concerning to us,” the letter, led by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia and signed by 60 House Democrats, reads.

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The letter draws attention to conflicting responses provided by government officials recently with regard to the virus’s spread and the hunt for a vaccine.

Last week, senior officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraged the public to prepare for the virus to spread across the U.S. and cause “severe illness.” The same day, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow sought to downplay the emergency, falsely telling reporters that the virus had been “contained.”

Trump himself issued misleading statements on Monday at a press conference and later during campaign rally in North Carolina, claiming that a vaccine and “maybe a cure” would be made available “very quickly” or “relatively soon.” Public health officials, meanwhile, say a potential vaccine is at least 18 months away.

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“The obvious and inescapable fact is that multiple Cabinet-level officials give different answers” when questioned about the trajectory of the outbreak or a timeline for a vaccine, the letter says.

It goes on to urge Trump to reestablish the global health threat teams on the White House National Security Council (NSC) and at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It notes that following the resignation of NSC official Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer nearly two years ago, there’s been no senior White House official tasked solely with monitoring global health security.

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“The potential of a pandemic is not a matter of economic or political benefit, it is a matter of life or death,” the letter continues. “We urge you to immediately establish a strong chain of command for the U.S. government’s pandemic response with clearly identified authority to conduct an administration-wide response.”

“The level of chaos with which the administration has greeted the spread of the coronavirus is unacceptable and frankly frightening,” the lawmakers added.

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The White House did not yet respond to a request for comment.

The letter comes as congressional members said they’d reached a bipartisan agreement on Wednesday for nearly $8.3 billion in emergency spending to combat the coronavirus. The deal is expected to reach the president’s desk by Friday. The funding will reportedly include $500 million to assist elderly Medicare patients in receiving tele-health services at home, according to the New York Times.

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Nearly 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported worldwide, according to official counts. More than 3,200 people have died.

Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

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DISCUSSION

Tristain7
BIMming It

As alluded to in the article, nothing will change until Trump starts to view this as a public health crisis FIRST, an economic issue secondarily, and a political issue not at all.

The minority party will always challenge the effectiveness of the majority party when handling a crisis, as it’s an easy time to start pointing out where you would handle things different. The majority, assuming they are interested in providing the minority wrong, should properly manage the situation and minimize it’s impacts while being as transparent and honest as possible with the public (there are reasonable limits to information sharing, but the level happening right now is obviously detrimental to stopping the spread).

Instead, Trump is simultaneously claiming that it’s not a big deal (making it infinitely more difficult to contain), and that it’s a hoax to make him look bad (par for the course these days), AND that he’s going to have a cure next week. The rest of his staff is alternating between ‘we need to be careful’ and ‘nothing to see here, folks’. The messaging is all over the fucking place, and capping that off with false reporting about infection rates (and now deaths) from the President himself is destroying any cohesive approach.

Pray we don’t even land in a real war while he’s in the Oval, as we’ll have Russian boots in Alaska while the President assures us they are just there on a hunting trip.