Associated Press: Trump “Wasted” Months Before Preparing for Coronavirus Pandemic

Trump corona speech

Journalists are writing the first draft of the history of the Trump presidency and it looks pretty bad.  I imagine it will look a lot worse once the historians start writing in a decade or two.  Here is a taste of Michael Biesecker’s reporting at the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — After the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.

A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.

By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency.

Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old dry-rotted masks.

“We basically wasted two months,” Kathleen Sebelius, health and human services secretary during the Obama administration, told the AP.

As early as mid-January, U.S. officials could see that hospitals in China’s Hubei province were overwhelmed with infected patients, with many left dependent on ventilator machines to breathe. Italy soon followed, with hospitals scrambling for doctors, beds and equipment.

HHS did not respond to questions about why federal officials waited to order medical supplies until stocks were running critically low. But President Donald Trump has asserted that the federal government should take a back seat to states when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.

When an AP reporter attempted to ask Trump about the issue on Sunday, the president cut off the question.

“FEMA, the military, what they’ve done is a miracle,” Trump said with a flash of anger. “What they’ve done is a miracle in getting all of this stuff. What they have done for states is incredible.”

Trump then ended the briefing and walked off the podium.

Read the rest here.