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President Donald Trump, according to Rollingstone, has proved to be the ‘biggest obstacle’ to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in combating COVID-19. The president, who has hinged his reelection campaign on a strong American economy, has taken steps to curb mitigation efforts.

Former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius met President Trump on his visit to the CDC in Atlanta. At that visit, Sebelius says that she got the impression that Trump wanted the number of coronavirus cases nationwide to be reported as low - even if it meant bending the truth.

“I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump allegedly told Sebelius when he pushed to keep passengers from a cruise ship, then suffering an outbreak off the California coast, to come onshore. Keeping them from coming to shore would keep case numbers from rising.

By standing at CDC headquarters to declare that the tests were “perfect” and that he didn’t want COVID-19 numbers going up, the president was doing the exact opposite of demanding a fix. For the president’s deputies, Sebelius says, “there couldn’t be a clearer signal.”

Ron Klain, who served under Obama, points out that any efforts needed to save thousands of Americans happened too late in the game:

“We had ample notice to get our country ready,” says Ron Klain, who served as President Obama’s Ebola czar, and lists the rolling out of testing, securing protective equipment, and building up hospital capacity as necessary preventative steps. “We spent all of January and February doing none of those things, and as a result, when this disease really exploded in March, we weren’t prepared.”

  • When the CDC’s first tests did not work out, there was no alternative plan of action. The Trump administration put boundaries between public and private sector resources while the CDC ‘floundered’. Instead of starting with a new test and dipping into the vast sector of biomedical companies, they were determined to fix the old ones.
  • For three weeks in February, the Trump administration shrugged off the responsibility to act quickly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among repeated warnings from health officials and experts, Trump refused any changes.

The Coronavirus Task Force had resolved to present the president with a plan for mitigation efforts, like school and business closures, on February 24th, but reportedly reversed course after Trump exploded about the economic fallout.

  • By the end of February, officials knew that the window for sophisticated mitigation efforts (like testing and contact tracing) were too little, too late and told Trump to enact a plan to begin aggressive social distancing and stay-at-home measures. By this time, thousands were doomed to die.

Trump “[created] a system of chaos and competition, as opposed to collaboration, that has made the situation worse for most states," said Sebelius. He treated the pandemic like a public image crisis, not a health crisis.

Read the Full Report.