In 2018, Trump Cut The CDC’s Global Outbreak Prevention Measures By 80%

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The year before Covid-19 would emerge in China, the Trump administration cut CDC funding for global epidemic prevention.

Just one year before the novel coronavirus would emerge in China, President Donald Trump decided to cut funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s global epidemic prevention activities by 80 percent.

The Washington Post reported in 2018 that the agency was forced to eliminate its work in 39 of the 49 countries due to the funding cuts — one of those countries being China.

CDC funding for the work began in 2014 after the West Africa Ebola outbreak, when about “$600 million was awarded to the CDC to help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics,” The Post reported.

But that funding expired in September 2018 — just over one year before Covid-19 would be discovered in Wuhan, China — and beginning that October, the CDC narrowed its activity to 10 “priority countries”: India, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Guatemala.

Countries where efforts were scaled back included some of the world’s hotspots for emerging infectious diseases, The Post reported, such as China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda and Congo.

Global health organizations warned at the time that “critical momentum will be lost if epidemic prevention funding is reduced, leaving the world unprepared for the next outbreak,” noting that “a rapid response by a country can mean the difference between an isolated outbreak and a global catastrophe.”

“Not only will CDC be forced to narrow its countries of operations, but the U.S. also stands to lose vital information about epidemic threats garnered on the ground through trusted relationships, real-time surveillance, and research,” a coalition of global health groups wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in 2018.

Former CDC director Tom Frieden, who led the agency during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, said the agency’s work abroad “is the front line against terrible organisms.”

“Like terrorism, you can’t fight it just within our borders. You’ve got to fight epidemic diseases where they emerge,” Frieden said in prescient remarks at the time. “Either we help or hope we get lucky it isn’t an epidemic that travelers will catch or spread to our country.”

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