President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump spray rose petals to pay tribute at Raj Ghat, the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, in New Delhi, India on February 25, 2020.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump spray rose petals to pay tribute at Raj Ghat, the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, in New Delhi, India on February 25, 2020.
Photo: Getty Images

President Donald Trump claimed the novel coronavirus was very much under control in the United States at a news conference from India where he was asked about the spread of COVID-19 around the world. Trump acknowledged that the massive drop in the U.S. stock market Monday was unfortunate, but said the U.S. was in “pretty good shape.”

Trump also defended his past comments about Ebola patients in 2014, claiming, “at that time nobody had even heard of Ebola or even conceived of something where you basically... people would disintegrate.”

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Needless to say, that’s a lie. Anyone who saw the 1995 film Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman knows the deadliness of the Ebola virus has been public knowledge for a very long time. Hollywood literally made a movie about it.

“I think it is going to be under control,” Trump said about coronavirus during his press conference in New Delhi, which was livestreamed on YouTube. “I think it is going to work out fine. We hope so.”

The press conference was a bizarre spectacle, where Trump also whined about the impartiality of the U.S. Supreme Court and rambled about the whistleblower who instigated the investigation of his quid pro quo with Ukraine. The president also told a reporter for CNN that his network’s record “is so bad that you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

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The new comments come as public health experts grow increasingly concerned about COVID-19 outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, and Iran, as the World Health Organization warns that the disease will “literally be knocking at the door” of other countries soon. And many people wonder what affects the Trump regime’s enormous cuts to public health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) over the past three years will have on its ability to fight the virus.

The Trump regime asked Congress for $1.25 billion in new funding to fight the virus on Monday, but that figure is tiny compared to the massive cuts that have taken place at the CDC and HHS in recent years. The regime’s latest budget proposes a 53 percent cut to money for the World Health Organization and proposed $3 billion be slashed for other global health efforts. Amazingly, the Trump regime still wants to cut even more.

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From the New York Times:

The president’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in October would slash the C.D.C.’s budget by almost 16 percent, and the Health and Human Services Department’s by almost 10 percent. Tens of millions of dollars would come from the department’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response and its Hospital Preparedness Program, which helps hospitals handle surges of patients during disease outbreaks.

The administration also proposed cutting more than $85 million from the C.D.C.’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. The center directly works on outbreaks like the coronavirus, which is believed to have emerged from live animals in Wuhan, China.

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Public health experts like Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch warn that the coronavirus could infect anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of everyone in the world, according to the Washington Post. And it’s not clear that the U.S. health system is prepared for a serious cluster of the virus emerging uncontrolled in the country.

Acting deputy secretary for Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli, didn’t exactly instill confidence on Monday when he asked on Twitter whether others were having trouble accessing the John Hopkins dashboard for tracking the spread of the coronavirus. While the map is useful for the public, Cunnicelli’s question raised the eyebrows of former government officials who worried that perhaps the leaders of Homeland Security weren’t receiving proper briefings about the outbreaks.

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And it should be no surprise that Trump’s assortment of fools may not be prepared. Many of the people who might have expertise in controlling a pandemic have been purged from the government.

From Foreign Policy magazine:

In May 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s entire global health security unit shut down, calling for reassignment of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer and dissolution of his team inside the agency. The month before, then-White House National Security Advisor John Bolton pressured Ziemer’s DHS counterpart, Tom Bossert, to resign along with his team. Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced. The global health section of the CDC was so drastically cut in 2018 that much of its staff was laid off and the number of countries it was working in was reduced from 49 to merely 10.

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President Trump may seem confident, but he’s clearly afraid of what might happen if coronavirus-panic hurts the U.S. stock market. Trump, who’s up for re-election in November, warned: “If I don’t win you’re going to see a crash like you’ve never seen before.” And those threats may explain his relatively gentle attitude toward Chinese President Xi Jinping, who’s faced criticism for covering up the outbreak when it was first identified in December 2019.

From a recent article in the Washington Post:

U.S. officials still do not have the information they have repeatedly asked for from China, which some have argued warrants a tougher line from the United States.

Trump has repeatedly told advisers that pushing for a harder line against China could backfire because Xi controls the government “totally” and will not work with the United States if it says anything negative about the country, said one of these senior administration officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.

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There are now 53 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., with 39 of those tied directly to the Diamond Princess cruise that was quarantined in Japan before the U.S. State Department evacuated over 300 passengers. Those Americans are now on military bases in California and Texas, and people who’ve tested positive for the disease have been sent to nearby hospitals for treatment. But the rest of the world is experiencing new clusters that lead many people to believe there’s no way to stop this from becoming a global pandemic.

Health officials in Hong Kong reported today that despite massive disinfectant campaigns in the region, there’s a possibility that trace amounts of the coronavirus can be left behind. Two coronavirus patients were potentially infected at a Buddhist temple in North Point recently, leading to cleaners disinfecting the temple as best they could. But health officials who were conducting tests at the temple still found trace amounts of the virus on a bathroom door handle and a prayer book, according to Hong Kong’s RTHK.HK news outlet.

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On the positive side, Health authorities in Vietnam report that all 16 cases of coronavirus in the country have been “cured,” and there haven’t been any new cases of COVID-19 since February 13, according to the Bangkok Post. Vietnam’s first cases of coronavirus were confirmed on January 23 in two Chinese citizens who had visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.

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But Vietnam may not be out of the woods yet, though, as South Korean visitors to the country have not been properly screened, according to a new report from Vietnam’s VN Express. Passengers arriving on a flight from Daegu, South Korea refused to be quarantined on Monday afternoon. The flight, which contained 20 South Korean nationals and two Thai nationals, were driven to Da Nang Lung Hospital but refused to be quarantined, suggesting instead to be sent back to South Korea or self-quarantine in their hotels.

President Trump might be putting on a happy face when it comes to a potential outbreak in the U.S., but it seems like he should be advocating for more preparedness. Because, if the photos coming out of places like Italy are any indication, with supermarket shelves bare in the span of just a few days, things could get bad very quickly.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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