Days of our lives

How brilliantly did our president prepare our country for the COVID-19 pandemic?

The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton.

The abrupt departure of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer from the National Security Council means no senior administration official is now focused solely on global health security. Ziemer’s departure, along with the breakup of his team, comes at a time when many experts say the country is already underprepared for the increasing risks of a pandemic or bioterrorism attack.

Ziemer’s last day was Tuesday, the same day a new Ebola outbreak was declared in Congo. He is not being replaced.

Pandemic preparedness and global health security are issues that require government-wide responses, experts say, as well as the leadership of a high-ranking official within the White House who is assigned only this role.

Lena H. Sun at the Washington Post ( link) on May 10, 2018

That doesn’t seem very brilliant. But that was in 2018. I’m pretty sure our sharp president corrected course in 2019.

Two months before the novel coronavirus probably began spreading in Wuhan, China, the Trump administration ended a $200 million pandemic early-warning program aimed at training scientists in China and other countries to detect and respond to such a threat.

The project, launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2009, identified 1,200 different viruses that had the potential to erupt into pandemics, including more than 160 novel coronaviruses. The initiative, called PREDICT, also trained and supported staff in 60 foreign laboratories — including the Wuhan lab that identified 2019-nCoV, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Field work ceased when the funding ran out in September, and organizations that worked on the PREDICT program laid off dozens of scientists and analysts, said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a key player in the program.

On Wednesday, USAID granted an emergency extension to the program, issuing $2.26 million over the next six months to send experts who will help foreign labs squelch the pandemic. But program leaders say the funding will do little to further the initiative’s original mission. …

Emily Baumgaertner, James Rainey at the Los Angeles Times (alternate link)

That wasn’t sharp. I’m baffled. Maybe the incompetent Obama administration or the U.S. intelligence community didn’t warn the president:

A week before the Trump administration took office in January 2017, Obama administration officials focused on the dangers of a pandemic in a briefing for top Trump aides, according to Politico. One of the possible scenarios sketched out included a fast-spreading global disease leading some countries to impose travel bans.

In an article in Foreign Affairs, Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, wrote, “We included a pandemic scenario because I believed then, and I have warned since, that emerging infectious disease was likely to pose one of the gravest risks for the new administration.”

Among others, the U.S. intelligence community warned in its annual threat report for 2019 that “that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death.”

Rem Rieder at

What about it Mr. President?

Trump’s responsibility for the emerging crisis came up again when Yamiche Alcindor from PBS NewsHour asked about the dismantling of a pandemic-preparedness office that was once part of the National Security Council. “You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House pandemic office,” she said. “The officials that worked in that office said the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded.”

“I just think it’s a nasty question,” the president countered.  

The National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense was established in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa and was tasked with preventing the next disease outbreak from becoming pandemic. In 2018, the Trump administration dissolved the office.

Nathalie Baptiste at Mother Jones

What do you say Bernie Sanders?

“I think his inaction has cost the lives of many, many Americans,” the 2020 presidential candidate said on ABC’s “The View,” appearing remotely. “Instead of rallying the scientific community, instead of educating the American people about the need for social distancing and the other things that we have to do.”  

“Trump from the very beginning downplayed the threat of this virus,” he said.”The idea that today we have doctors and nurses all over this country who do not have masks that cost 50 cents or a dollar apiece is unbelievable. We don’t have enough ventilators, gloves, gowns — that speaks to a dysfunctional healthcare system.”

Julia Manchester at The Hill

What say you Joe Biden?

On Sunday, Biden made a virtual stop on Meet the Press, where host Chuck Todd controversially asked him whether Trump had “blood on his hands” given the administration’s bungling of the coronavirus response so far. “I think that’s a little too harsh,” he replied. “I watched a prelim to your show where someone used the phrase that the president thinks out loud. He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply.”

Osita Nwanevu at The New Republic

“That’s a little too harsh.” …



  1. Totally fine, nothing to see here.

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