Just two years ago in 2018, the United States had a pandemic response team in place to handle outbreaks and coordinate national responses to them to prevent them from becoming much bigger problems. But President Donald Trump scrapped that whole team just because former President Obama created it.
The coronavirus has exploded in our country, infecting over 1,200 Americans and killing over 35 so far. It has wreaked havoc on the stock market and people are panicking across the country as stores sell out of basic necessities.
The response has been absolutely horrible and reckless as Trump scrambles to make it look like he’s doing something to get a handle on the crisis.
But he would not have had to scramble if he had simply not disbanded the pandemic response team Obama established during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which successfully managed that crisis and put measures in places to handle future outbreaks, including worst-case scenarios that Trump’s administration is totally unprepared to deal with.
As a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Laurie Garrett is qualified to talk about the government response to the virus and trump’s major mistake of disbanding the pandemic response team.
During an interview on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, Garrett explained why Trump disbanded the team and why it was a major mistake that will have severe consequences.
“Pretty abysmal situation,” Garrett began. “Where we are right now is that everybody is recognizing, oops, it was a big mistake by the Trump administration to obliterate the entire infrastructure of pandemic response that the Obama administration had created. Why did he do it? Well, it certainly wasn’t about the money, because it wasn’t a heavily funded program. It was certainly because it was Obama’s program.”
Indeed, Trump has sought to undo everything and anything Obama did, even if it was good for America.
Garrett then dug deep into what the pandemic response team was all about.
“It was a special division inside the National Security Council, a special division inside of the Department of Homeland Security — that bozo was talking from — and collaborating centers in HHS, headquarters in Washington, the Office of Global Health Affairs, and the Commerce Department, Treasury Department. But what Obama understood, dealing with Ebola in 2014, is that any American response had to be an all-of-government response, that there were so many agencies overlapping, and they all had a little piece of the puzzle in the case of a pandemic,” she said.
“If we get to the situation where we’re anything like what’s going on in China right now, then our Department of Commerce, our Department of Transportation and our department of USDA would have to collaborate to get food deliveries all over America so that parts of America don’t starve,” she continued. “And you could see in China convoys, hundreds of 18-wheeler vehicles completely full of food, coming into Wuhan every single day. Do we have the capacity to coordinate that?”
“What the Obama administration realized was that you can’t corral multiple agencies and things from private sector as well as public sector to come to the aid of America, unless you have some one person in charge who’s really the manager of it all,” Garrett said. “And in his case, it was Ron Klain, who had worked under Vice President Biden. And he was designated, with an office inside the White House, to give orders and coordinate all these various things.”
So, Trump had this pandemic response team at his disposal, yet he disbanded them anyway because he hates Obama so much. And now the country is suffering the consequences of that petty action.
“Well, that was all eliminated,” Garrett concluded. “It’s gone. And now they’re hastily trying to recreate something. And last night there were many names tossed around about who he was going to appoint as head of the response. He had previously gone on the record, President Trump, saying, “I have great faith in Secretary Azar, and my HHS secretary will be in charge.” And we’re told, from multiple sources, that right up until they got on stage for that press briefing, Azar thought he was in charge. And then the president says, “And here’s my good friend Mike Pence, and he’s taking charge.”
Putting Pence— an anti-science zealot— in charge, did not inspire confidence at all because his record of handling crises, especially health crises, is notorious as he caused HIV and opioid epidemics in Indiana as governor.
Thus far, Trump’s attempt to recreate the pandemic response team with people he chose has been a complete failure and embarrassment. And he’s the only one Americans should blame for the ongoing crisis we now face.
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