The Trump administration has faced steep criticism for their frequently lagging response to the Coronavirus crisis. At the end of February, after the virus had already been spreading far around the world, President Donald Trump himself lied that concern over the virus was a hoax, and reports have since emerged that behind the scenes, Trump was also ignoring repeated rounds of briefings about the potentially looming effects from the Coronavirus. This weekend on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who has been helping lead the administration’s Coronavirus response, admitted that earlier action from the president could have saved lives, although he also acknowledged that a host of other often unpredictable factors weigh on the situation as well.
Still, his admission lends credence to the recent declaration from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that Trump’s dismissals of the seriousness of the Coronavirus have been “deadly.” Reportedly, public health officials in the administration including Fauci recommended instituting social distancing measures all the way back in the third week of February, but the president didn’t actually institute national social distancing guidelines until almost a month later.
Fauci told host Jake Tapper:
‘As I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes, it’s not. It is what it is. We are where we are right now… You could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.’
"We make a recommendation," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, when asked by @JakeTapper about reports that he and other top officials called for social distancing in February. "Often the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it's not. But it is what it is. We are where we are right now." pic.twitter.com/sw8xYZILB4
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) April 12, 2020
The pushback that Fauci seems to point to from within the administration from figures like the president himself has frequently hinged on economic concerns.
Once we OPEN UP OUR GREAT COUNTRY, and it will be sooner rather than later, the horror of the Invisible Enemy, except for those that sadly lost a family member or friend, must be quickly forgotten. Our Economy will BOOM, perhaps like never before!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2020
Recently, Trump was even clamoring to have the economy reopened by Easter — which is this weekend — despite the potential carnage that could ensue if the virus was allowed to spread unchecked without mitigation components in place. Fauci is one of those who eventually convinced the president to extend national social distancing guidelines until the end of April, although the implementation of actually binding stay-at-home orders has frequently been left to governors around the U.S., the majority of whom have implemented some version of a stay-at-home order.
Dr. Ashish Jha: "We cannot open up our economy without adequate testing … let's say May 1 we open up the doors and everybody's back to work."
"For a few weeks, we wouldn't notice it at all. And then, you would see massive flare-ups of cases."https://t.co/2OTszfFAoC
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 12, 2020
Actually safely reopening the economy would entail the implementation of a widespread testing and contact tracing system that has yet to materialize. Just in recent days, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) revealed that his state could only perform thousands of tests a week; it’s private firms who are picking up a lot of the slack. Appropriately large-scale testing is necessary to track and stem the spread of the virus before it gets out of control again like happened most recently.
.@Acosta: How can the administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus? Don't you need a nationwide testing system for the virus before you reopen?
TRUMP: "No." pic.twitter.com/JokZYfy97T
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 9, 2020