Apparently, the Trump administration’s elimination of key positions meant to handle disease outbreaks like the Coronavirus pandemic extends beyond the situation involving the pandemic response team at the National Security Council, which Trump and his cronies dissolved. According to Reuters, just months before the Coronavirus exploded, the Trump administration eliminated a position at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that had been embedded with China’s own infectious disease control agency and who could have helped provide crucial intel about the virus’s original spread. The position was specifically “intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China,” Reuters reports.
Dr. Linda Quick was the last occupant of the position before she left it in July of last year; her position had been in place since 2001, apparently. She was the only member of the CDC’s overseas contingent who was actually embedded with Chinese authorities and thereby that much closer to the actual frontlines of a potential disease outbreak like the Coronavirus. Her job description, Reuters explains, included training Chinese epidemiologists to respond to disease outbreaks.
Bao-Ping Zhu, who served in Quick’s position prior to her, commented to Reuters:
‘It was heartbreaking to watch. If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster.’
The Coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in the vicinity of a seafood market, and it quickly spread to other major cities around the country. President Donald Trump himself and many of his allies have complained about Chinese authorities’ apparent initial effort to constrict the dissemination of information about the Coronavirus outbreak, but if Quick or any other American official had been left in that original position working that closely with the Chinese, there’s a chance that more information could have gotten out in time to help at least some authorities have better prepared for what’s ensued. More than 335,000 Coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world as of Sunday afternoon, and over 32,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. alone, which has also suffered some 414 deaths and counting.
The CDC insists that Quick’s departure from her Chinese job “had absolutely nothing to do with CDC not learning of cases in China earlier.”
They added the claim that their decision to stop funding her job in the first place “started well before last summer and was due to China’s excellent technical capability and maturity of the program.” Yet, the decision did not occur in a vacuum. Broadly, the president has pushed for the elimination of positions like Quick’s, which drove the National Security Council consolidation that claimed the Obama-era pandemic response unit, which was formed after the Ebola crisis. More specifically, Trump’s animosity towards China is well-documented — he won’t even stop calling the Coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” despite the lack of any support for that moniker other than racism.
Former CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden noted that the Trump team’s modus operandi seems to have been “Don’t work with China, they’re our rival,” and now, those struggling around the world to get a handle on the virus may be paying the price.