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'Mind-boggling': How pandemic planning never accounted for a President like Trump

April 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

While government officials and public health experts have devoted years to efforts to enhance US preparedness for a pandemic, a key factor went overlooked: A president like Donald Trump.

"We think it's going to have a very good ending," Trump said.

While government officials and public health experts have devoted years to efforts to enhance US preparedness for a pandemic, a key factor went overlooked: a president like Trump.

The president's approach made it more difficult for those around him who scrambled to mount a cohesive response to the pandemic, according to public health experts and other officials.

"We have chaotic things happening out of the White House without any clear plan, without a comprehensive approach, without clear messaging, and the result is a lot of people are dying. . . who didn't have to die," said Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama.

Though Monaco has also been critical of the Trump administration's response during the pandemic, she added, "I have sympathy for the ability to answer questions and provide information in real time when the ground is shifting beneath your feet. "

Angered by growing criticism of his administration's response, including a New York Times report published over the weekend, Trump used what was supposed to be a coronavirus briefing to play a White House-produced propaganda-like video promoting his efforts.

"The truth is President Trump took bold action to protect Americans and unleash the full power of the federal government to curb the spread of the virus, expand testing capacities, and expedite vaccine development when we had no true idea the level of transmission or asymptomatic spread," Judd Deere, a White House spokesman said in a statement to CNN.

Azar, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, and other top health officials quickly began convening daily meetings in January on the coronavirus threat, sources told CNN.

By late January, the National Security Council also began holding daily coronavirus meetings at the White House, said one person familiar with their discussions.

When Azar was finally able to press the issue with Trump in January, the President appeared preoccupied, sources said.

An administration official insisted Trump took the virus seriously from the start, noting that Trump created a task force in late January and was in touch with governors across the country.

Just four days after Messonnier warned of a possible pandemic, Trump told the Michigan autoworkers he believed everything was under control.

But the Trump administration's first response, in late January, was to bar foreigners who visited China from entering the US.

It bought the Trump administration time, but it was the only significant step the administration would take to try to contain the virus for at least a month.

One former administration official said there was no one left at the National Security Council who could "viscerally understand" the public health threat the virus posed.

For most of February, the Trump administration publicly downplayed the threat of the virus to American citizens, treating it mainly as a problem to wall off from the US.

The decision to keep critical medical supplies on US soil didn't come from the coronavirus task force until late March, when severe shortages were already apparent in the US, administration officials said.

That was the day Messonnier got the President's attention -- and not in a good way, sources said.

And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner," Trump said of the coronavirus that was already spreading like wildfire across the globe.

A senior CDC official directly involved in the agency's coronavirus response said, "giving the science behind something shouldn't make you a political target, but she was. "

As the pandemic loomed, some network hosts and pundits routinely downplayed the medical nature of the threat and said it was being weaponized by the media and Democrats to attack the President.

He traveled to Mar-a-Lago where he personally delivered a message to the president: The virus posed a real threat and it could overwhelm the health care system, sources said.

Before Trump fully grasped the threat posed by the novel coronavirus, he understood the danger of bad press, and the Trump administration was getting pummeled.

Trump had sidelined Azar from his role leading the coronavirus task force, replacing him with Vice President Mike Pence on Feb. 26.

In the days after his Oval Office address, advisers privately pressed Trump to put more faith in his health care officials, like Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, rather than his economic advisers, one adviser said.

The message to Trump was: "This is a war and these are your generals," the adviser said.

And it stuck with Trump, the adviser said.

He told reporters Trump accepted a formal recommendation by himself and Dr. Birx to enact a nationwide 15-day mitigation period beginning last month, and to extend it another 30 days when they concluded more time was needed to slow the spread of the virus.

"Sadly, President Trump has made pretty much all the mistakes you can make," said Laura Kahn, a public health expert who has studied leadership challenges during epidemics.

"China had given the Trump administration about two months to prepare for this.

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