Between Christmas and the New Year in 2019, my family decided to take a trip to Las Vegas. It was a chance to get away. It was also a chance for my oldest daughter, who is serious about violin, to get some intensive training from her teacher. She practiced and had lessons each day through to the afternoon and evening. After she was finished, we'd go see the sights. We saw the Bellagio fountains. We ate at interesting restaurants, went shopping, and had delicious treats. We made our way home for the New Year. We celebrated with lit up sparklers and friends.
A world away, the World Health Organization talked about a mysterious pneumonia sickening dozens in China.
President Trump was told about the serious virus on January 3. Less than two weeks later (January 11, 2020) China reported the first death from the newly identified Coronavirus.
On January 22, the first case was reported in the United States. A man in his 30s from Washington State had traveled to the epicenter in Wuhan, China at the end of the previous year. He was probably not the only one that slipped through, but he was the only one who was tested and detected.
The next day President Trump said, "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. It's going to be just fine."
As an aside:
If we compare this with the same timeline of President Obama's response to the Swine Flu Pandemic, Obama knew about the virus on April 15. By April April 26 (11 days later) it was declared a public health emergency.
If President Trump followed that timeline, he would have declared a public health emergency by January 14. If we go from the date the first case was reported in the U.S., a public health emergency would have been declared on February 1.
At the very least, we could have started preparing at this point. We could have started making more n95 masks or looking through our inventory of what we have and what we don't. We could have started testing anyone coming from outside the United States. However, by the time President Trump decreased travel from China for a limited number of people on January 31, the virus was already here. And we weren't testing anyone.
As it was, in between when President Trump knew about the virus (January 3) and when he declared an emergency (March 13), here's what he did instead of preparing:
- January 4: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- January 5: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- January 9: Held a rally in Toledo, OH
- January 14: Held a rally in Milwaukee, WI
- January 18: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- *January 22: First confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States*
- January 22: In a CNBC interview, Trump said, "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It's going to be just fine."
- January 28: Held rally in Wildwood, NJ
- January 30: Held rally in Des Moines, IA
- January 30: In a speech in Michigan, Trump said, "We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we're working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it's going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you."
- January 31: Trump decides to close travel from China for anyone who had been in Wuhan less than 14 days prior.
- February 1: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- February 2: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- February 10: At a White House press briefing, Trump said, "Now, the virus that we're talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We're in great shape though. We have 12 cases — 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now."
- February 14: Speaking to the National Border Patrol Council, Trump said, "There's a theory that, in April, when it gets warm — historically, that has been able to kill the virus. So we don't know yet; we're not sure yet. But that's around the corner."
- *February 15: Total known cases in the U.S. reach 15*
- February 15: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- February 23: Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said, "We have it very much under control in this country."
- February 24: Trump Tweeted, "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"
- *February 26: Total known cases in the U.S. reach 60*
- February 26: At a White House briefing, Trump said, "So we're at the low level. As they get better, we take them off the list, so that we're going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we've had very good luck."
- February 26: At another press conference Trump said, "And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."
- February 26: At another press conference, when asked if school should be preparing for the spreading of the virus, Trump said, "I think every aspect of our society should be prepared. I don't think it's going to come to that, especially with the fact that we're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up."
- February 27: At a White House meeting with African American leaders, Trump said, "It's going to disappear. One day — it's like a miracle — it will disappear."
- February 29: At a speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) Trump said, "And I've gotten to know these professionals. They're incredible. And everything is under control. I mean, they're very, very cool. They've done it, and they've done it well. Everything is really under control."
- *March 4: Total known cases in the U.S. reach 158*
- March 4: At a White House meeting with airline CEOs, Trump said, "[W]e have a very small number of people in this country [infected]. We have a big country. The biggest impact we had was when we took the 40-plus people [from a cruise ship]. … We brought them back. We immediately quarantined them. But you add that to the numbers. But if you don't add that to the numbers, we're talking about very small numbers in the United States."
- March 4: In an interview on Fox News about the percentage of people who had died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Trump said, "Well, I think the 3.4% is really a false number."
- *March 5: Total known cases in the U.S. reach 221*
- *March 7: Reported deaths from the COVID-19 virus reach 19; Total known cases in the U.S. reach 401*
- March 7: When asked whether he was concerned about the virus in the Washington, D.C. area, Trump said, "No, I'm not concerned at all. No, we've done a great job with it."
- March 7: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- March 8: Went Golfing at his resort in West Palm Beach, FL
- *March 9: Reported deaths from the COVID-19 virus reach 26; Total known cases in the U.S. reach 663*
- March 9: Trump tweeted, "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"
- March 10: After a meeting with Republican Senators, Trump said, "And we're prepared, and we're doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away."
- *March 11: The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a global pandemic*
- *March 13: Reported deaths from the COVID-19 virus reach 48; Total known cases in the U.S. reach 2,126*
- March 13: When asked about the shortage of testing kits and early stumbles by the Federal government, Trump said, "I don't take responsibility at all."
- March 13: President Trump declares a national emergency.
In conversations with Republican friends who support President Trump, often the argument is made that each state should be prepared individually and none of this is President Trump's fault. However, national response to a virus coming in from a foreign country is completely the Federal Government's responsibility. A national strategy should be implemented so that the spread across state lines is minimized.
I want to make it clear, that President Trump is not responsible for the virus. The response to the virus is completely his responsibility. He decided to minimize and sidestep instead of honestly facing the threat head on.
As of this writing, in the United States there are 368,174 known cases of the virus, and 10,966 deaths from the virus.
In part 3 we'll dive into what the Federal Government and President Trump have done since he declared a national emergency.