HHS Secretary Told Trump Repeatedly About Viral Threat


President Donald Trump has consistently claimed that his administration has taken the Coronavirus seriously from the very beginning, but the facts tell an entirely different story. According to new reports, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar personally briefed Trump about the Coronavirus threat not once but twice throughout the month of January, but the president dismissed the official’s warnings and waited for weeks to take any kind of remotely decisive action. Only about a couple of weeks into March did Trump formally declare the virus a national emergency, and at the end of February, he’d still been insisting that that virus concern was a “hoax.”

Reportedly, Trump privately responded to Azar with similar sentiments. Azar briefed Trump on January 18 while the president was vacationing at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort shortly after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield notified Azar about the latest updates surrounding the virus’s then-spread in China. On January 30, Azar again briefed the president, this time while Trump traveled on Air Force One, and the president dismissed the official’s dire warnings as “alarmist.”

The New York Times reports:

‘The health and human services secretary, Alex M. Azar II, directly warned Mr. Trump of the possibility of a pandemic during a call on Jan. 30, the second warning he delivered to the president about the virus in two weeks. The president, who was on Air Force One while traveling for appearances in the Midwest, responded that Mr. Azar was being alarmist.’

That glib dismissal of Azar’s dire warning in favor of the president’s reliance on his own hunches — or whatever — helped compound the preparation problems that have cost increasing numbers of American lives.

Trump could have mobilized the federal government’s resources right then and there in order to secure the supplies like personal protective equipment and ventilators that are needed amidst the Coronavirus outbreak. Trump did none of that — he didn’t even announce federal social distancing guidelines until March — and now, the U.S. has more than half a million confirmed Coronavirus cases and well over 20,000 deaths and counting.

After all of the effects of Trump’s failures have come to light, and the medical supply issues putting people on the front lines in danger have emerged, Trump is still sticking to his “hunches.” Asked recently about the criteria that he would be using for choosing a time to broadly reopen the economy and phase out federal social distancing demands, Trump, pointing to his head, said that he’d rely on metrics in his mind — which isn’t exactly reassuring.

The warning lights that Trump ignored don’t end with the personal briefings from Azar. Trump was also told about a January 29 memo that longtime Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro produced outlining the potential impacts of the looming pandemic. As Navarro explained it, “as many as half a million deaths and trillions of dollars in economic losses,” The Times explains. None of that was apparently enough to move Trump from his commitment to protecting his public image, no matter the lives on the line.