Public health officials are issuing stern warnings about the 2020 outbreak of a new coronavirus that has the potential to become a pandemic.
Alarmed citizens are looking for the truth about the virus as well as the truth about a particular rumor involving President Donald Trump- Did he or did he not fire the entire pandemic response team two years ago and then fail to replace them?
It’s a scary thought in any climate, but particularly now as we face an uncertain future with a dangerous outbreak.
Snopes gets involved
Snopes decided to get to the bottom of it. First, Snopes researched where the claim fame from. It appears that it came from some tweets posted by Judd Legum, who runs a politics and power newsletter called Popular Information.
The tweets appear to represent similar harsh criticism from Dem leaders (and even some Republicans) that Trump and his administration is simply not prepared for a pandemic, even as the country faces one so close at hand.
Legum detailed the cost-cutting and controversial choices the Trump administration made in preceding years that basically gutted the country’s infectious disease defense infrastructure.
The words “pandemic response team” that keeps appearing in coverage come from 2018 news stories that reported that White House officials who were in charge of directing a coordinated national response to a pandemic had been ousted.
The details of the ousted officials
Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer was in charge of leading the global health security team on the National Security Council but suddenly left his post in May 2018 in the midst of reorganization of the council by then-National Security Advisor John Bolton. Ziemer’s team was dissolved.
The Washington Post reported that Tom Bossert, who “had called for a comprehensive biodefense strategy against pandemics and biological attacks,” had been fired one month before.
The Trump administration is responsible for disbanding the team that should be coordinating a response to a pandemic and they HAVE NOT REPLACED IT.
Legum said in a follow-up tweet, “Trump also cut funding for the CDC, forcing the CDC to cancel its efforts to help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics in 39 of 49 countries in 2018. Among the countries abandoned? China.”
In 2018 reports confirmed that by saying that funding for the CDC’s global disease outbreak prevention programs were slashed by 80%, including the agency’s efforts in China.
Earlier this year, on Feb. 24, the Trump administration asked for $2.5 billion to address the coronavirus outbreak, and critics say this recent hasty step might not have been necessary if he and his administration had not made the previous cuts it had.
On Feb. 26, Fortune reported,
The cuts could be especially problematic as COVID-19 continues to spread. Health officials are now warning the U.S. is unlikely to be spared, even though cases are minimal here so far.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a press call [on Feb. 25].
The coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in 2019 and has since spread around the world. The U.S. has had 57 confirmed cases and many more being tested daily. Around 80,000 patients have fallen sick with the virus and 3,000 of them have died. As the numbers grow daily, there is no vaccine yet available and no treatment.
Research coming in from China suggests that the coronavirus has a higher fatality rate than the typical seasonal flu, but of course, as with other flu viruses, underlying or preexisting conditions can determine the severity.