Around two months before the Coronavirus first began to emerge, the Trump administration ended a program launched by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) back in 2009 that was meant to support scientists around the world in the identification of potential pandemic viruses. Apparently, the defunct program called “Predict” even supported scientists in the very Chinese lab that eventually detected the Coronavirus pathogen that has spread around the world, adding a wrinkle to the Trump administration’s consistent claims that they have supposedly valiantly fought against the virus this whole time and only been foiled by issues in places like China.
Peter Daszak, who works as president of EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that had been involved in the program, commented, in reference to the project name “Predict”:
‘Look at the name: Our efforts were to predict this before it happens. That’s the part of the program that was exciting — and that’s the part I’m worried about.’
This defunct program that could have assisted foreign scientists in studying the Coronavirus before the outbreak took over the world is not alone among crucial public health support programs that the Trump administration slashed. In the name of streamlining operations, the Trump team also eliminated a pandemic response team on the National Security Council, and they eliminated a position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that worked directly with scientists in China on issues like detecting and controlling infectious disease outbreaks. Any one of these figures having been in place when the Coronavirus emerged could have helped clamp down on the virus before the present calamity.
Trump eliminated the White House Global Pandemic Response team
He ended a coronavirus early-warning program working with labs in Wuhan, China
He cut a key CDC position in Beijing focused on detecting disease outbreaks
Now he's firing Captain Crozier for sounding the alarm https://t.co/kByVvvPPP7
— Zac Petkanas (@Zac_Petkanas) April 3, 2020
And that usefulness of global support seems proven by new policy moves. U.S. authorities unveiled a $2.26 million grant package just this week designed to support scientists around the world in the handling of the Coronavirus outbreak. As for the program that was already supposed to do that, which sported funding of $200 million, former USAID scientist Dennis Carroll said that the program “essentially collapsed into hibernation.”
In the summer of 2019, the Trump WH eliminated a “key public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China.” That job? Providing real-time info to US officials at the outset of a pandemic.https://t.co/9IEFZ8TWzT
— Jeff Nesbit (@jeffnesbit) April 1, 2020
There’s already been talk of work to investigate planning and response failures in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) put it:
‘We’re in the eye of the storm now, but we will get through this. And when we do, we’ll need to review our Coronavirus response in a nonpartisan fashion to ensure we’re better prepared for the next pandemic. I’m working on a bill to establish a 9/11-style commission to do so.’
We're in the eye of the storm now, but we will get through this.
And when we do, we'll need to review our Coronavirus response in a nonpartisan fashion to ensure we're better prepared for the next pandemic.
I'm working on a bill to establish a 9/11-style commission to do so: pic.twitter.com/2CvokGyX8Y
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 2, 2020
He soon unveiled the bill, commenting just this Friday:
‘It’s not too early to conclude a bipartisan after-action review of this crisis will be necessary. To assess what went wrong, what went right, and protect us in the future. The American people deserve no less. I’m circulating a bill to accomplish this’
It's not too early to conclude a bipartisan after-action review of this crisis will be necessary.
To assess what went wrong, what went right, and protect us in the future.
The American people deserve no less.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 3, 2020
Trump has already angrily responded to the idea of oversight, ranting that Congress’s work constitutes “a witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt.” In reality, Americans are right now getting ill and dying in the wake of the Trump administration’s “deadly” floundering, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put it.
"It''s a witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt" — Trump is now using the coronavirus briefing to whine about oversight of his administration pic.twitter.com/naKxCaje1h
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 2, 2020