- President Donald Trump insisted on Tuesday that the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is under control because China is “working very hard” to contain its spread.
- The president’s comments are at odds with reality. The same day, the CDC announced that it expects the virus to spread enough within the US to cause a “disruption to everyday life.”
- The Trump administration has also spent the last several years dismantling the very government programs responsible for combatting a global health crisis.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump spent much of Tuesday reassuring the public that the coronavirus is under control.
“China is working very, very hard,” Trump told reporters at a business roundtable at the US embassy in New Delhi, India. “I have spoken to President Xi [Jinping of China], and they are working very hard. If you know anything about him, I think he will be in pretty good shape. They have had a rough patch, but now it looks like they are getting it more and more under control. I think that is a problem that is going to go away.”
Trump’s comments are at odds with reality.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, China and has killed 2,700 people globally and spread to 30 countries. There are at least 36 confirmed cases in the US, including repatriated citizens.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it expects the virus to spread further within the US.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more, but a question of when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a press call on Tuesday. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”
Messonnier also warned that the agency is “preparing as if we are going to see community spread in the near term,” adding that the outbreak could soon lead to a “disruption to everyday life.”
Fears of a pandemic come after the Trump administration spent the past several years gutting the very government programs that are tasked with combatting such a crisis.
In 2018, for instance, the CDC cut 80% of its efforts to prevent global disease outbreaks because it was running out of money. Ultimately, the department went from working in 49 countries to just ten.
Here are some other actions the Trump administration undertook to dismantle government spending programs related to fighting the spread of global diseases, according to Foreign Policy:
- Shutting down the entire global health security unit of the National Security Council.
- Eliminating the US government’s $30-million Complex Crises Fund.
- Reducing national health spending by $15 billion.
- Consistently attacking Mark Green, the director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The CDC is working on a new test to screen for the coronavirus, but according to New York Magazine, problems with the test’s development resulted in only three out of 100 public-health labs being equipped to screen for the virus. Moreover, each test costs as much as $250, and the Health and Human Services department is already running out of money to finance an adequate response to the outbreak.
The Trump administration recently requested $2.5 billion in emergency funds – $1.25 billion in new funding and $1.25 billion to be diverted from other federal programs – to aid in preparing and responding to coronavirus cases in the US.
But Democratic lawmakers and health experts skewered the administration for not going far enough to combat the crisis.
The economic consequences of an unaddressed outbreak would dwarf US spending on efforts to control it, Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist and the director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Insider.
“It seems quite inadequate and absurd to divert funds from one serious epidemic to another,” Lipsitch said of the emergency funding package. “Money to control it is a very important investment.”